Escape from WHAA

After Ispitan’s recent escape from Valdemar, one of the authors of WHAA (Bob Minadeo – thanks Bob!) kindly advised me that in earlier drafts of the rules, the alarm was raised if the die roll was the turn number or less on 1d6, and suggesting that as an optional rule.

Here are the chances of the alarm being raised per turn, and cumulatively, under either approach…

Turn RAW This Turn RAW Cumulative Option This Turn Option Cumulative
1 17% 17% 17% 17%
2 17% 31% 33% 44%
3 17% 42% 50% 72%
4 17% 52% 67% 91%
5 17% 60% 83% 98%
6 17% 67% 100% 100%

Assuming your group moves 8” per turn, and starts in the centre of the board, 24” from the nearest edge, it has a better than even chance of escaping without the alarm being raised using the Rules As Written, and about one chance in four of doing so using the optional rule.

Your call – whatever you think would suit your game better.

Arion, 087-3011 to 093-3011

My narrative inspiration is on holiday this week, so you just get some fairly mechanical results.

Arion’s Log, 087-3011

No encounters on arrival insystem.

We arrived in the Erriin system, which proved to be as advertised in the data pack we picked up on Betiqu. There were no other ships in orbit, and we landed without incident.

088-3011

Legal encounter rolled, group reaction 5 – hostile.

Today was spent in refuelling, renewing life support, and the dozens of other tasks which need to be handled at each new planetfall. A group of surly local law enforcers dropped by, looking for trouble, but Coriander managed to persuade them otherwise.  I suspect she continues to use her psionic powers on our behalf in these situations, to modify the reactions of the natives; I wonder if she is doing that to me, too? Possibly her influence on Dmitri and I has an older, and more pheromonal, source.

089-3011

Rolled a 5 for selling the gems, +1 for Coriander, +8 for this being a Rich world; 300%, so we sell the two tons we have for a cool Cr 6 million. Yummy. Another legal encounter, group reaction 7, followed by a random person encounter – more police, but with a reaction of 10.

Coriander has developed a real knack for trading, or at least a way of influencing buyers. She sold the gemstone cargo for six million Credits, so we’re financially secure for a while. A second, and later a third, group of police came by to check us out; judging by their accents, they are not locals – probably the Republic of Inlaarin is flushing the local enforcement agencies with its own people, at least in the senior roles. The second group were neutral, and the third, positively friendly.

090-3011

Rolled more gems as speculative cargo, which will be expensive to buy and won’t sell well anywhere close by. We’re rich enough at the moment not to need them. Another legal encounter, more police with a reaction of 5. I also roll a patron encounter, Governor, and decide he wants us to deliver a message wherever we’re going next.

Coriander came back from the traders’ godowns laughing; someone tried to sell our gems back to us. We declined, politely. Another group of police came by, with the same surly attitude as the first lot, and marched me off to the Starport Authority. I was trying to work out what we’d done wrong, when the Inlaarinese Governor himself turned up, and asked me to deliver a message when I left. He gave me a sealed data cartridge.

“Who is this for?” I asked. “And how do you know where I’m going next? I haven’t worked that out yet myself.”

“They will find you,” he replied. “Wherever you go.”

None of us like the sound of that, but not agreeing probably means an all-expenses-paid indefinite vacation in Aquatraz, a local underwater prison I would rather not find out any more about than I already know.

092-3011

Legal encounter, reaction 10.

Another visit by the police. Now that they know I’m doing a job for the governor, they’re pleasant enough, but I still have a bad feeling about this.

093-3011

Type C pirate cruiser encountered, but the captain’s reaction was 8. I decide the most logical explanation is that this is a representative of the Government-in-Exile of Free Erriin, and that the Governor is sending them a message for some reason. That would explain why he can’t do it through normal channels.

Thankfully, today it was time to shake the dust of Erriin from our boots and lift off.

Heading for the 100-diameter safe jump distance, we were hailed by another vessel, a cruiser. I was worried when they started painting us with fire control radar, but once we established radio contact we quickly learned they had come to pick up our message from the Governor. I don’t know what’s going on here, and Dmitri says it’s safer not to find out, but once we had transmitted the data cartridge on tight beam they let us go.

I’d already decided to jump to Ustianan next to get some weapons fitted, and this encounter just reinforces that decision. It’s dangerous out here, and we need to be able to defend ourselves.

While the Dolphin is safe in jumpspace, I’ll think about Ustianan.

Ispitan – September 986

It’s dark, damp and filthy in the ground floor of the keep, where Eyjolf and Ispitan have been dumped while Valdemar decides what to do with them. At length, the big cavalryman descends to visit them.

“Are you ready to tell me what these are for?” he says, hefting the satchel of herbs in one hand.

“So,” muses Ispitan. “You do not entirely trust the one who ordered you to retrieve them.”

“That is none of your concern.”

Ispitan gestures at the cell around him.

“If I agree to help, could we be moved to somewhere more comfortable?”

Valdemar laughs. “One would normally keep persons of your status, lord wizard, in cleaner surroundings. But you are in no position to negotiate.”

“Do you know why captive wizards are not usually held in dungeons?” says Ispitan, in a low and dangerous voice.

“No…”

“It is not because of our status. It is because with a fistful of cobwebs and some rats’ teeth I can do this…” Ispitan shouts a word of power and makes arcane gestures. Valdemar is stunned for a moment, then begins to copy Ispitan’s movements.

“The only difficulty,” Ispitan continues in a conversational tone, while Valdemar’s mouth apes his words, “Is that of controlling another body from an unusual point of view. That’s it, take out the key and unlock the cell… now come inside… Eyjolf, tie him up and gag him, please, I need to maintain the spell. And collect the bag of herbs while you’re at it. Thank you.”

As they make for the exit, Ispitan turns and calls back over his shoulder, “Your men should discover you soon. Adieu, Valdemar.”

And they are gone.

This is an Escape scenario. I don’t need to lay out terrain unless and until a fight seems imminent; if Ispitan and Eyjolf are in the middle of the 48” x 48” board, they can’t be further than 24” from the nearest edge. A couple of die rolls determine that there are no horses to steal, and it is night. The easiest way to handle this mechanically, at least until combat, is by a table…

Turn Alarm Die Alarm? Activation Die Star Active? Star Has Moved
1 6 No 1 Yes 8”
2 4 No 2 Yes 16”
3 2 No 3 Yes 24”
4 2 No 6 No 24”
5 4 No 1 Yes 32”

I note that it’s actually quite hard to get caught sneaking out of prison. At this point, Ispitan and Eyjolf have escaped Valdemar and run off into the night. Ispitan has survived another encounter, so rolls to improve Rep, Hardiness and SS; rolls of 5, 1 and 6 mean his Rep stays the same, his Hardiness drops one (must be the prison food), and his Social Standing increases by one.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 5 3 Staff 2 8” Caster 6 TW
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Foes                  
Valdemar Mtd Melee 6 4 Spear 4 12” Elite - SS

Navies of the Imagoes Subsector

“Quantity has a quality all its own.” – Joseph Stalin.

As the Arioniad is a spacefaring campaign, I feel the need to flesh out the naval situation in the subsector a little more. To a first approximation, this will show the strategic balance of power as well.

BASES

The first thing this draws to my attention is that the subsector map shows the naval base symbol wherever the UWP list shows a scout base, and the scout base symbol wherever the UWPs show a naval one. I’ve fixed that by redrawing the map, which you can now find a link to in the Campaigns section (see top menu bar).

I decide that naval bases indicate what we’d call today a "blue-water navy" – one that can credibly project power outside its own territorial waters (read, “system space”). That means the actual naval powers are Aresar (part of the Mageer Swarm), Direra (Inleer) and Ustianan (Esusce).

There are quite a lot of class B starports in the subsector, where small craft could be built, but only four class A starports capable of building starships; Zamaso and Aresar are both in the Mageer Swarm, and Esusce and Ustianan, both controlled by Esusce. Since only Aresar and Ustianan have both a naval base and a starship yard, they are probably the worlds with the best naval traditions.

FLEETS

I spent quite a bit of time researching various ways to calculate available fleet budgets and tonnages, and comparing those to the real world, but then decided that for a role-playing campaign, it doesn’t matter; all of the methods in are CT ultimately based on population, and because they are expressed in powers of 10, the highest population level in the state is a good approximation to its total population. The empires stack up against each other thus, with the navies of equivalent-sized present-day nations for comparison:

Population Empires Present-Day Examples
10 Mageer Swarm All contemporary navies. Twice. With chips. Thousands of warships.
9 Teenes Indian or Chinese navies. Hundreds of warships.
8 Inleer Pakistani navy to USN. Tens to hundreds of warships.
7 Xemaais, Enaniqu, Inlaarin Iraqi navy to Turkish navy. Up to a couple of hundred warships.
6 Edcetequ, Esusce Israeli navy to Swedish navy. Up to several dozen warships.
4 Laarerer No contemporary state this small has a navy.

 

Now, history shows that the number of ships is not the whole story; training, motivation and leadership can act as force multipliers, allowing a smaller navy to punch above its weight. Looking at the relative combat power of real-world navies, a highly-effective one could take on the next level up in the table – I’d bet on the USN against the Indian navy, if it ever came to that – but not two levels above; the Swedish navy is not going to take on the USN and win, nor is the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard going to stand much of a chance against the Royal Navy, should they ever wind up on opposite sides of the gaming table.

It should also be noted that population isn’t a completely accurate yardstick – the USN has almost half the world’s warships, but the USA is only the third most populous state – but since this is a roleplaying campaign rather than a full-on strategic simulation, I shan’t worry about that.

ANALYSIS

The Mageer Swarm, if mobilised to a single purpose, can basically whip anyone it wants, whenever it likes. The Swarm has a killing, heart-breaking numerical edge. Esusce’s navy does have a one TL advantage over Mageer, but I can’t see that making up for being outnumbered 10,000 to 1. Most of the other powers have a lower TL than Mageer, which makes the imbalance worse. Comparing the population levels of the Swarm’s worlds, around 99% of their ships, crews and troops will be imagoes.

Teenes is the second-ranking power, able to take on the rest of the subsector combined and expect to win, so long as Mageer stays out of the fight. However, theirs is not a “blue-water navy”, and while no-one but the Swarm could hope to beat them in a war, they are not a credible threat to other empires.

Inleer is the third-ranking power, fearing only Mageer and Teenes, able to bully the rest of the subsector if it so desires, but unable to build its own ships; this limits its ambitions somewhat, and suggests an alliance with Esusce – Esusce providing the technology, and Inleer the numbers. The alliance’s primary military concern is how to deal with the Swarm if it turns its hive mind to conquest, since it would be outnumbered 100:1.

The rest of the multiworld empires are comic-opera affairs, of minimal strategic importance. Laarerer’s navy probably has no actual ships, and consists of a number of sinecure positions whose incumbents dress up in smart uniforms and salute each other on public holidays.

Farewell to D&D Insider

This is, in a way, a review. Earlier I reviewed D&D Insider and pronounced it worthwhile, at least for me; after a couple of years, I no longer feel that way, and will not be renewing my subscription when it lapses in June.

The things that were valuable to me are no longer worth the money. Let’s take a look at why.

Character Builder: There is no longer an offline version. If I want to use it, I must be logged in via broadband. This makes it unusable for me, as I want to use it away from my internet connection; in the lounge, when at friends’ houses, or on holiday. There’s also my growing disillusionment with the continually-changing character classes and options, but mostly it’s the move to online-only use that is the killer.

Dungeon and Dragon Magazines: I was happy enough with this stuff going online and out of the newsagent, but in the last couple of months there’s been a change here too. I preferred to snag the whole issue and browse offline at my leisure, but now articles are split out as individual downloads. That means I have to decide what I’m interested in before I download rather than afterwards.

In short, then, WotC has decided that serious D&D players and DMs have an always-on broadband connection, wherever and whenever they need content; and that players and DMs are happy with constantly-changing rules. None of those things apply to me, nor do I wish them to; and so D&D Insider and I must part company.

Erriin

Using Google to check on what Erriin might mean, I discover that Google thinks I should have typed Errin, which could be an Irish girl’s name, a birth control pill, or the European Regions Research and Innovation Network. Replace "European" with "Empire" and you have a science-fiction version. I’ll go with the girl’s name for now, give the place an Irish feel, and leave the Network as a possible secret organisation to be uncovered in future adventures, as the patron dice dictate.

Erriin is part of the four-world state controlled by Inlaarin, so it would be useful to know something about that empire’s government; the simplest thing is to say that like Inlaarin itself, this is a charismatic dictatorship. I dub the mini-empire the Republic of Inlaarin, since watching the news on TV suggests to me that most dictators call their states republics, and themselves Presidents. I also need to work out the derivation of Inlaarin; a little Google-fu suggests the most likely origin is the Estonian surname Laarin, so I’ll assume Inlaarin’s earliest settlers were Estonians. That’s all I need to know about them for now.

Starport: C. Routine quality installation; unrefined fuel, reasonable repair facilities. Scout base present.

Size: A. Diameter 10,000 miles, surface gravity 125% standard, safe jump distance 10 million miles (7 hours at 1G)

Atmosphere: 8. Dense, but breathable.

Hydrographics: A. Surface is completely covered in seas; water world.

Population: 7. Tens of millions of inhabitants.

Government: 6. Captive government, answerable to a governor appointed by the President of the Republic of Inlaarin.

Law Level: 9. All weapons are prohibited.

Tech Level: 7. Equivalent to contemporary Earth.

Trade Classifications: Rich. Main imports: Gems, pharmaceuticals. Main exports: Machine tools; polymers, body armour, aircraft, electronic parts, mechanical parts, computer parts.

Gas Giant: No.

Alignment: Republic of Inlaarin, which maintains a Scout base locally.

Most of Erriin’s inhabitants lead the life of ocean nomads, following the currents and shoals of local fish. There are a few small islands in an equatorial chain, mostly of volcanic origin; the largest of these houses the starport and capital city.

Erriin is ruled by a Governor-General appointed by the President of the Republic or Inlaarin, which seized control of the world several decades ago, presumably because of its wealth and mild climate. It is unclear why the previous government surrendered to Inlaarin, but whatever the reason, the masses do not agree with it. Since the population density is very low, however, the vastly-outnumbered occupying forces perforce content themselves with controlling the starport and offworld trade. The occupation thus has little direct impact on the average inhabitant.

Theoretically, no citizen may bear weapons outside his home, but in practice the Republic’s military is unable to enforce this; their only recourse is to use orbital laser and missile fire to suppress concentrations of rebels, and superior cyber-warfare to control the economy; individuals who stay away from major cities, far apart from each other, and communicate by low-tech channels are relatively safe.

Ispitan – August 986

I went through the encounter process in detail last time, so I’ll skip to the outcome today: Ispitan & Co. have stopped at a farm to get supplies, unaware that local troops are about to attack it, in the belief that one of the farm buildings contains a McGuffin of some sort. The only thing special I know to be there is Ispitan’s herbs, so we’ll start with the idea that a rival of the Sable Mage is trying to stop him getting his material components.

Ispitan & Co. are helping out with some farm chores as payment for last night’s hospitality, when Galen trots back into view from one of his frequent trips to the woods to get medicinal herbs.

“Trouble coming,” he says. “I saw horsemen, heard chatter and weapons. We’d better get ready.”

“Get the farmer and his family into the cellar,” orders Ispitan.

This was a really tense and close-fought battle, and I was very pleased with the layout and photography – finally using a proper camera. This lasted right up to the point where I discovered that none of the pictures had been saved to the SD card. So you’ll have to imagine it I’m afraid.

Anyway… learning from experience, Our Heroes stayed in the farmhouse as the PEFs approached them.

  • Turn 1: Rufus gets Line Of Sight on one of the PEFs, and it resolves as one retinue infantry, 3 retinue cavalry and 3 borderers.
  • Turn 2: The retinue cavalry dismount and close on foot, driven by the NPC table on p. 48. This brings them within 12”, so a Test of Wills is in order. Ispitan uses his star ability of choosing the number of successes to force both sides to halt in place and do nothing, so that he can cast on his next activation. (I decided that they would leave one of the dismounted cavalry holding the horses so that they didn’t wander off.)
  • Turn 3: Ispitan casts Steel Wind, but fails and loses 6 Rep for casting purposes. Oh well.
  • Turn 4: The infantry and dismounted cavalry charge home, but in a masterful display of lucky dice rolling, Rufus and Galen render three of them Out Of the Fight.
  • Turn 5: All this time, the other PEFs have been milling about moving to the closest cover, but now one comes into view and is resolved: One skirmisher, 7 borderers, and one retinue cavalry – this turns out to be the Big Bad, with Hardiness 4 and Rep 6; I dub him Valdemar and decide he will make a fine recurring nemesis. Valdemar and friends close up, a Test of Wills is in order and again Ispitan forces a “hold in place” result to buy time for his friends. Rufus and Galen put another foe OOF.
  • Turn 6: Valdemar’s group charges home and kills Galen outright. Ispitan clobbers one of the borderers with his staff, rendering him Out Of the Fight. Rufus takes down another enemy. At this point I started to wonder if I would have enough OOF markers.
  • Turn 7: A retinue infantryman drops Eyjolf, OOF, and Rufus is Obviously Dead following an exchange of blows with several foemen. Only Ispitan is left on his feet, and things are not looking good for the home team.
  • Turn 8: The last PEF heaves into view and resolves as one skirmisher and four borderers. Ispitan is hard pressed by Valdemar and several borderers, but his Hardiness saves him until the next activation.
  • Turn 9: Ispitan has his back to the farmhouse wall, and again his Hardiness saves him from a flurry of blows by three opponents. However, he is wounded and loses 2d6 from his melee Rep.
  • Turn 10: Ispitan is clobbered again, and has his Rep reduced to zero, taking him OOF. It’s all over bar the shouting.

“Shall we kill them, Lord?” asks one of the footmen.

“No,” says Valdemar. “Search them. See if they have the herbs we seek. Bury the dead honorably, for they fought well. Bring the wounded with us, including the enemy.”

“Sir?”

“That wizard fought three of us and a horse to a standstill armed only with a stick. He is definitely worth talking to.”

Ispitan has survived another encounter, and so rolls to improve his Rep, Hardiness and Social Standing. He rolls 5, 6, 5 and all three go up one point.

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 5 4 Staff 2 8” Caster 5 TW
Rufus Melee 4 - Sword 4 6” - - SS
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Galen Melee 4 - Sword 2 8” Healer - SS
Foes                  
Valdemar Mtd Melee 6 4 Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Cavalry Mtd Melee 5 - Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Infantry Melee 4 - Spear 4 6” - - SS
Borderer Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Skirmisher Missile 3 - Bow 2 8” - - SS

Review of Hard Light: Adventure Module for Stars Without Number

"Where else can you get an evening’s entertainment for six people for less than a tenner?" – Albie Fiore, 1980

In a Nutshell: Can you say "dungeon crawls in spa-a-a-ace"? I knew you could. This 38-page module from Sine Nomine Games describes a star system for the Stars Without Number RPG, and adventures set therein.

Contents

  • Light Without End: One-page GM’s overview of the star system and its secret history. The system contains a red giant star and a number of asteroids, but no significant planetary bodies.
  • Brightside Station: 8 pages describing the mining station which is the main centre of human population in the system. There are descriptions of the station as a whole, mining operations, local law enforcement, daily life, the station personnel, and local hazards; capsule descriptions of ten key NPCs and their motivations; deck plans with a couple of paragraphs of explanation for each area; and contents of the station’s locker. If you consider this as a campaign-starting dungeon module, Brightside is the base town where the PCs will hang out between expeditions.
  • The Sky Tombs: 8 pages on the alien ruins found in the system; history, structure, details of two alien races, a system for creating Sky Tombs based on a set of geomorphic maps and a list of stock room descriptions, and the ancient treasures available for looting.
  • Empty Graves: The obligatory pirate base, with an overview of operations, a deck plan and room descriptions, and thumbnail sketches of key NPCs. Two pages.
  • The Cold Tomb and The House of Echoes: Two example Sky Tombs, fully stocked, with deck plans and room descriptions.
  • Judgement Day: Two pages outlining what happens when the Station’s dark past finally catches up with it, and how the PCs can become embroiled in the denouement.
  • Nothing But Trouble: One page of hooks by which the PCs can be inveigled into this den of iniquity.
  • NPC Combat Stats: Exactly what it says on the tin. Stat blocks for stock and named NPCs. One page.
  • Maps: Player maps of BrightSide Station, for use as a handout; Sky Tomb geomorphs for the GM; and a one-page handout for the PCs, a station briefing handed to their characters on arrival. Total, four pages.

Conclusion

So, yes, this is a series of dungeon crawls in space. That’s not a bad thing per se; I think I would really enjoy playing in Mr Crawford’s campaign, should the opportunity ever arise. Meanwhile, this would be a good place to start a campaign from.

What you get in the module is a complete plug-and-play star system, easily transported to other campaigns; a fleshed-out starport; ancient tombs to loot and pirates to fight off while you’re doing it; and starport intrigues both large and small in which they can be embroiled. There are at least five sessions’ worth of play in here, probably more – that’s not bad going for a couple of bucks. SWN continues to delight with its tightly-integrated setting, information-dense products, and fresh, fast-play mechanics.

Arion, 067-3011 to 080-3011

Captain’s Log, 067-3011

At some point during our previous mission, the jump drive must have been damaged or mis-set, as we have misjumped. It remains to be seen where we will emerge. Hopefully there is adequate life-support for the journey, and a suitable starport at the far end where we can renew consumables and refuel.

Captain’s Log, 074-3011

We have now emerged from jumpspace in an unknown location. The Dolphin reverted to standard survey procedures, cruising along orthogonal axes to detect local planets by parallax. I am concerned that there are no gas giants insystem, which limits our refuelling options. Only one planet appears to be in the life zone, and it is here we are most likely to find some sort of civilisation; especially since there are radio transmissions from it in unknown protocols. We are making for this world at a steady 1G of acceleration, despite the temptation to go faster, and expect to arrive in approximately 38 hours. This will give us time to conduct engineering checks in case a rapid departure is advised.

Here I roll 2d6 for a ship encounter on my trusty 1977 starship encounter table; 2 +1 for starport = 3, no encounter.

Captain’s Log, 076-3011

We have now achieved orbit around the planet, and established radio contact with the local Class D starport. The ship’s library was able to translate the local language, which is a descendant of Terrestrial Spanish. The survey package tells me that Betiqu, as the world is known, has a profile of D510645-3. There is a scout base, but this belongs to a local state called the Mageer Swarm, and we are advised not to make contact. This will be difficult as the base is the only obvious source of fuel insystem. Clearly we need to refuel and jump somewhere more hospitable forthwith.

"You’re so much more formal in log entries," Coriander said, reading over Arion’s shoulder.

"Well, I’m writing for posterity here," said Arion. "And the Service has traditions about this sort of thing."

"Posterity?" snorted Dmitri. "Who’s going to read it? Who’s going to care?"

"If we make it back, we’ll have discoveries people are interested in. A new alien race for certain, these imagoe things. New trade routes, maybe. Who knows what else?"

"I’d settle for discovering some fresh water and a new set of air filters," said Dmitri. "It stinks in here."

"Good luck with that. Still, we have to go down. Can’t stay up here forever."

Encounters Day By Day:

Strictly, I should roll these up each day, but it’s more convenient to do them in a batch. I’m ignoring animal encounters because Arion and Company have no reason to leave the starport at the moment. It took us 3 days to find the place and land, and it’ll take one day to leave, so I need to roll for 3 days: 077, 078 and 079.

  • Legal: 2d6 each day, with scores of less than the local law level indicating an encounter with the police. I roll 9, 12, 7 – they just don’t care, do they?
  • Random: 1d6 each day, 5+ indicates a random person encounter. 2, 5, 3 – so we get an encounter on the second day in the starport.
  • Patron: 1d6 each week, 5+ indicates an encounter. A roll of 1 means there is no patron.
  • Rumour: 2d6 each week, 7+ indicates a rumour is found. I roll an 8, so there is an interesting rumour of some sort. I’ll figure that out later.

Payload Bay Security Recording, 077-3011

"You did WHAT?!"

"I sold the air/raft."

"Dmitri, what were you thinking? It’s not ours! It belongs to the Service!"

"Arion, we need the money. I’ve checked; between us, we have about 75 Credits in loose change, in non-negotiable currency. We need at least 8,000 just to refresh the life-support. We need a few hundred for berthing fees, incidentals and so on. And we need a cash float to start trading with. Unless you know of a Service base in this system which somehow we’ve missed so far."

"What are we going to tell them?"

"I’ll worry about that if we ever get back. Grand Theft Air/Raft. Lost in action. Damaged beyond economic repair. Maybe even the truth." Arion struggled to regain his composure.

"How much did you get for it?"

"Nine hundred thousand."

"That’s… more than I would’ve expected." A suspicion crossed Arion’s mind.

"Coriander. Did you have anything to do with this?"

"Well… maybe a little. I went with Dmitri, and I, um, sort of… made sure the buyer knew just how nice our air/raft was?"

Dmitri has Persuasion d4, which for trade and speculation purposes I’m calling equivalent to Admin-0. Coriander goes with him and uses Boost Trait; she has Psionics d6 and is a wild card, so she rolls 2d6 and takes the higher score – 4, a success, which increases Dmitri’s Persuasion to an effective d6. Switching back to CT, I roll 2d6 on the Actual Value table, and add +1 for the increased Persuasion, which I now rate as Admin-1 equivalent. I also add +2 for selling an air/raft on a non-industrial world. A score of 8 + 3 = 11, which is 150% of the base value or Cr 900,000.

"Coriander, do you know how many laws you’ve just broken?"

"No," said Coriander, brightly.

She is Clueless, remember.

"In which jurisdiction?" Dmitri wanted to know.

"Don’t go all space lawyer on me."

"One more thing, Arion."

"I’m not going to like this, am I?"

"I don’t know. I took the 900,000 and paid for berthing fees and life support refresh. Then I bought us 40 tons of what passes for fuel here."

D class starports have unrefined fuel available, but given the circumstances I decided they would sell it at the refined price – a 400% markup. Ships have nowhere else to go, and Arion and company are foreigners with no local contacts.

"Where did they get that from? They definitely can’t refine it."

"I didn’t ask, and I recommend you don’t either. I don’t think we’re going to like the answer. It’s contaminated with a bit of chlorine, but I figure the filters can handle it. Anyway. I noticed there was a good deal going on gemstones, they must mine them here or something. I bought two tons of ‘em, they should be delivered in a couple of hours. That leaves us with fifty-five thousand nine hundred Credits. A good day’s work, I say."

Again rolling 2d6, this time on the Trade & Speculation table, I get 4, 1 indicating gemstones, which have a -8 purchase DM on a non-industrial world. I roll 2d6 for purchase price and get a 6, – 8 = 2 (the minimum possible); 40% of base price, or 400,000 per ton. A roll of 1d6 shows there are 4 tons available, so Dmitri has to pay a 1% handling fee for splitting the shipment. 800,000 buys him 2 tons of gems, plus 16,000 handling fee.

Another thought crossed Arion’s mind.

"Dolphin, are you recording this?"

"Yes, Arion."

"Well, don’t."

Captain’s Log, 078-3011

Shortly before noon, a pair of locals in an ATV came over to check us out. At first I thought they were police, but they were simply concerned – and heavily armed – citizens. On establishing that we were not, and I quote, "bugs come to take over more of our planet," they briefed us on the imagoes, or as they call them, "bugs"; these are the life-forms making up the Mageer Swarm. I infer from their comments that imagoes are a chlorine-breathing, insectoid species. This information cost us the better part of the medicinal brandy in the ship’s locker, but that is one thing I am confident we can replenish anywhere in human space.

This is the random person encounter. 4, 4 reveals it is a group of 2d6 – make that two – vigilantes in a vehicle, armed with rifles and carbines, and wearing jack. A roll of 8 on the reaction table shows they are interested in us, but not hostile. This is probably where we get the rumour. It’s convenient if I use this to convey background information, so I’ll say this is where Arion picks up the information you already have from the previous post on the imagoes.

Captain’s Log, 079-3011

Coriander and I went into the traffic control office in search of astrogational data. I was fully prepared to trade for it, but Coriander had opted for a more than adequately slinky red dress as opposed to Service coveralls, and the traffic controller was extremely helpful, even taking some snapshots to remember us by.

Coriander failed to Boost her Persuasion, which I’ve noticed is actually better than Dmitri’s, but then aced her wild die on the Persuasion roll and got a 10, success with a raise. Arion now has a data pack for the subsector, giving him the basic map and world profiles as per the previous post, but no more; he and I must both learn the rest as we go.

Captain’s Log, 080-3011

We lifted off successfully from Betiqu, and are now bound for Erriin, where the traffic controller’s data pack suggests we should get a good price for our cargo.

I get a 5 for encounters leaving the system, which means none. Our Heroes now have Cr 55,900 and two tons of gemstones. If money permits, I think they should tool up the ship at the first opportunity – even a pulse laser would be something to stave off pirates with.

A slow start, perhaps, but it’s been a few years since I ran Traveller so I’m content to ease back in gradually. During 081-3011 to 087-3011, the Dolphin will be in jumpspace with not much happening, so I shall use next week to think about Erriin.

Ispitan – July 986

Ispitan and his surviving colleagues move back across the border into the Border Kingdoms. This region in the summer has an encounter rating of 5. I roll 2d6 and get 1, 5 – this passes 2d6 so there will be an encounter. A further die roll of 1 shows we have encountered locals. A roll of 2 on 1d6-1 (-1 because we are on the border) dictates that the encounter occurs in Clear terrain, and another 1d6 roll of 3 determines this happens in a village.

I now have to figure Ispitan’s CV to find out how many opponents and what kind.  (Rep 3 + AC 2 + Notes 1) * (Hardiness 2 +1) / 6 = 3, and since I’m running the rest of the group as NPCs I’ll count them as CV 1 each. I roll on the Border Kingdoms army list and get 7 (borderer), 9 (retinue infantry), 5, 6 (retinue cavalry), and then I’m up to CV 6 so I stop. The highest Rep (5) is with the retinue cavalry. I now roll 1ds6 on the Big Bad table (p. 10), getting a 2, and determine that the NPC force leader has Hardiness 3 but one Rep less than usual for his type, so he is Rep 4. I have MetaCreator open for other purposes so I use the built-in name generator to assign him a French name: Edon.

Our heroes tramp across frosty meadows back into the Kingdoms. At length, they spy a village in the distance and make for it with the intent of staying overnight; the quarters will be cramped and smelly, but warm, and after long enough in the cold, warm trumps the other factors.

“Ispitan,” says Rufus as they come closer, “Look at that. There’s a group of soldiers at the gate. Stragglers, by the look of them.” He points, and Ispitan makes out four spearmen and a couple of horses. Eyjolf chimes in.

“Where are the villagers? And their animals?”

The two parties move closer, stopping about 20 or 30 yards apart.

Rolling 2d6 on the adventurer encounter table (p. 46) gives a 10, indicating that we must Talk the Talk. Another 1d6 result of 2 shows we have met a hostile group with unknown intentions.

“Wait for me here,” says Ispitan, “Maybe they did this, or maybe they know who did.” He strides forward as one of the spearmen mounts up and trots out to meet him.

Ispitan rolls (Rep) d6 vs 3 and gets 1, 6, 3 = pass 2d6. Edon rolls 4d6 vs 3 and gets 1, 4, 3, 4 = pass 2d6. Checking the Talk the Talk table on p. 47 shows that there is no conflict, and the parties leave each other in peace.

“Greetings,” says the wizard. “I am Ispitan, apprentice to the Sable Mage, travelling on a quest for my master. Who might you be, warrior?”

“Edon, part of Lord Algis’ retinue. My comrades and I are what is left of a raid into goblin territory.”

At this point I use a random die roll to determine whether Algis and Sable are friends or enemies, and get a positive result. This won’t affect the outcome, just how I explain it.

“What happened to the villagers? We were hoping to shelter here.”

“As were we. Judging by the signs, I’d say orcish bandits happened to them. There are no villagers, no animals, but lots of orc arrows and a couple of bodies.”

“Would you like to join us? We’re bound for Acromerinth, and there is safety in numbers.” The cavalryman shakes his head.

“Our duty calls us elsewhere. I must report back to Algis’ keep.”

“The Sun shine on you, then.”

“And on you.” The horseman turns and rides back to his colleagues.

I’ve mentioned before that in campaign mode, THW games often generate no combat. That, too, is part of the story, and while I used to keep going until one of the encounters turned into a fight, now I feel more comfortable following the characters at their own pace through whatever the dice gods throw at them.

As we have survived another encounter, I roll for improvement for Ispitan, trying to roll over his stats. This increases his Rep and Hardiness by one each, but leaves his Social Standing where it was. This pushes his CV up to 4 (I round the Star’s CV down, because he will always meet enemy CV of at least his own, and often more.)

Name Class Rep Hard Weapon AC Move Notes SS Align
Ispitan Missile 4 3 Staff 2 8” Caster 4 TW
Rufus Melee 4 - Sword 4 6” - - SS
Eyjolf Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS
Galen Melee 4 - Sword 2 8” Healer - SS
Foes                  
Edon Mtd Melee 4 3 Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Cavalry Mtd Melee 5 - Spear 4 12” Elite - SS
Retinue Infantry Melee 4 - Spear 4 6” - - SS
Borderer Melee 4 - Spear 2 8” - - SS