Behind what you see going on in this blog, I’m thinking about how I could marry up my current favourite RPG (Savage Worlds) with the THW reaction system, so that I can use something like Warrior Heroes or Larger Than Life to drive the campaign and the scenario – there’s nothing better than THW for same-side or solo play, at least as far as I know.
My current view is that I should count half the relevant trait die type as the character’s Rep or skill level. That would mean the typical NPC, with a d6 in attributes and skills, would have either Rep 3 or skill level 3; the typical Novice PC has a d8 or d10 in whatever he’s good at, which would make him Rep 4 or 5 – a good match for a beginning THW Star. Still thinking this through, but it has potential, I feel.
We last saw Arion and Dmitri walking down a tunnel full of stars, into a glowing pyramid, in the middle of Cyrene’s jungle. Is the big bad here? 1d6 vs 1: 1, so yes. Hmm, and I actually had the storyline plotted out for this encounter – never mind, it’ll get used at some point. I roll a 6 for Schrodinger’s objective – capture a member of the Star’s group. That could be Dmitri or the Dolphin, but if Schrodinger is also inside the pyramid, it makes most sense that it would be Dmitri, since we know Schrodinger has already tried that once; I considered having Our Heroes return to the starport to find the Dolphin missing, but it seemed less logical. Is it day or night? 1d6 vs 3: 4, night.
Let’s set the stage; I roll 2d6 against the Lost World column of location table on p. 40 (because that’s the current location type) and get a 5, rough mountainous terrain. This means line of sight is only 12″ and combat movement is halved. Now we assemble the cast. First I add together the Reps of Arion’s group: 8. Then I add the Big Bad’s Rep (6) to 1d6 (3) and the number of clues solved so far (2) for a total of 11. The Number of Enemy Table on p. 42 shows that Schrodinger’s group has a Rep equal to Arion’s. Schrodinger may be leading them in person; 1d6 vs 1: 4, so not. As a Big Bad, Schrodinger can recruit from any list he likes, so let’s go with the King Beast table since he is a shaman of the King Beast at the heart of this adventure. I go to that list and start rolling; a 7, 1d6 warriors (2) at Rep 4 – that’s 8 Rep in total, so we’re done; the notes below that table show me that the warriors are armed with Primitive Weapons. The table on p. 18 shows me that they are skilled in Melee and use the Military reaction tables. There may be Innocent Bystanders present; however, there is no suitable entry on the Innocent Bystanders table (p. 43), so I decide there are none – hey, we’re inside an ancient pyramid reachable only via a dimensional portal, so that seems fair.
Arion and Dmitri emerge from the portal tunnel, down a steep slope into a lush jungle. A waterfall in the distance fills both eyes and ears with beauty. This is overshadowed momentarily by the roar of a large, ferocious beast, and the crashing of undergrowth as it moves closer.
“What in the Nine Hells is that?” asks Dmitri.
“Big enough not to argue with,” Arion responds. Here in the wilderness the roles are reversed; he is the expert, and Dmitri the newbie. “Wait – who are they?”
Working my way down p.43, I place the leaders of the groups 6 + 1d6 (3) = 9″ apart, with the followers within 12″ of their leaders but no closer together. The upper hand test is now needed; each side’s leader rolls as many dice as his Rep, and there are no modifiers so it’s anyone’s game. Arion rolls 1, 2, 1, 5 and passes 3d6. The lead warrior rolls 3, 4, 2, 1 and passes 3d6. We discard successes and continue to roll. (This is the only part of the THW rules that feels clunky to me; I preferred the CR 2.0 approach of rolling against Rep, I just don’t see how this adds to the gameplay. However, I know that THW rules interact in ways neither obvious or trivial, so I’ll roll with it for now.) Round 2 – Arion: 1, 1, 2 = pass 3d6. Warrior: 5, 1, 2 = pass 2d6. Round 3 – Arion: 3, 5, 4 = pass 1d6. Warrior: 1, 2 = pass 2d6. Round 4 – Arion: 2 = pass 1d6. Warrior: 5, 6 = pass 0d6. Gaining the upper hand is now resolved, and Arion scored one more success; the results table on p. 44 shows that all will fire if possible, otherwise charge into melee. Combat begins; this doesn’t look like it is complex enough to need a table set up, so I won’t bother; there are only two groups, each with two people, so noting movement along a notional line should suffice.
Two figures with the distinctive earrings, scars, and ceremonial fighting knives of Gimirri warriors step out of the undergrowth and glare at Our Heroes.
“Umm, hi,” Arion tries. “We were hoping…”
But we never find out what Arion is hoping, as with a fierce war-cry, the warriors surge forwards towards him.
Turn 1: Activation. Arion rolls a 1, as does the lead warrior. Both sides activate, and act at the same time. Arion is the only one with a gun, and doesn’t much fancy mixing it up with two knife-wielding fanatics, so he feels no need to move. The other three will all charge (at half speed because of terrain, namely 4″).
Arion shoots at the lead warrior. Checking p. 50 I see this means he rolls as many dice as his Shooting skill (2) plus his weapon’s fire dice (1); any result of 1 is a hit. 3d6 vs 1: 6, 6, 6. That’s no use! Still, it provokes a crisis test for the warrior who has been shot at. He rolls 2d6 vs Rep (4): 2, 3 = pass 2d6, so he should fire; but p. 50 says he can’t when out of range, which he is (9″ away with a weapon having a 6″ range).
Dmitri and the two warriors now charge (I figure bullets move faster than people, so resolved the shooting first). That sounds like they’re trying to fast move into contact, so I roll 2d6 vs Rep (4) for each of them: Dmitri 5, 6 = pass 0d6 and moves 4″. Lead warrior 1, 2 = pass 2d6 and move 4″ + 2.5″ (5″, halved for terrain) = 6.5″. Second warrior 1, 3 = pass 2d6 so 6.5″. However, if I were using figures, they’d be on 1″ bases, so any within 1″ of each other are in base to base contact, triggering melee. I guess one warrior will tackle Dmitri (they are trying to capture him) while the other will charge Arion (to take the gun out of the equation).
This is not going to end well, as both sides roll dice equal to their Melee skill. The warrior has 4d6, and Dmitri has – errm, 0d6, actually, and even that is reduced by 1d6 for not having a melee weapon. I really should’ve checked that before I charged with him, come to think of it. Oh well, we’re here now… Warrior: 3, 4, 5, 6 and pass 1d6. Dmitri automatically fails, and by the table on p. 51 is wounded and reduced to Rep 3. That means he must roll on the Law Enforcement Crisis Table: 2d6 vs Rep: 2, 4 = pass 1d6, and because he is wounded rather than dazed, he is Out Of the Fight.
At the end of turn 1, then, the imaginary line of combatants looks like this:
Arion <2.5″> Lead Warrior <1.5″> Dmitri (OOF) and second warrior.
Arion draws his pistol and fires, but misses. Dmitri howls in rage, and races past Arion to counter-charge the oncoming foes. A vicious infighting move too fast to see clearly drops him to the ground as one of the Gimirri leaps into the air and kicks Dmitri in the head.
Turn 2, and already I feel I can run this just with the quick reference charts, so this is easier to pick up for me than other THW games have been. Activation: Arion 4, warriors 3. Both sides activate but Arion goes first, and being a Runt who would roll at -1d6 in melee he shoots the closest warrior. 2d6 vs 1 (down 1d6 because the target is fast moving): 4, 1 = pass 1d6. The warrior is wounded, Rep reduced by one, and takes a crisis test. 2d6 vs Rep (now 3): 3, 5 = pass 1d6, and because he is wounded he is now OOF. Hah! Take that, evildoers!
The second warrior is only 4″ from Arion (I really must remember to step back in these situations) and is thus able to close to melee without fast moving. This doesn’t look good; Arion scrabbles to drag his knife out and rolls 1d6 (2d6 for skill, less 1d6 for being a Runt) vs 3: 1 = pass 1d6. The warrior rolls 4d6 vs 3: 4, 4, 3, 6 and passes 1d6. Both now reroll successes: Arion 1d6: 3, pass 1d6. Warrior 1d6: 2 = pass 2d6. Reroll again. Arion 1d6: 4 = pass 0d6. Warrior 1d6: 4 = pass 0d6. Hmm, a tie. Both sides have zero successes, which means I should add the scores of the tossed d6 and the high score wins. If I do that only for the last round there is no high score; over any other period the warrior would win simply because he has more dice. I decide to proceed to another turn, with the antagonists locked in melee still.
Arion fires again at the closest warrior, and drops him. The second warrior flips back to his feet and charges Arion before he can switch targets. Arion drops his pistol, pulls out his knife and the two antagonists stab each other – but each grabs the other’s knife arm with his free hand. As they struggle, the Gimirri hooks Arion’s legs out from under him and they fall to the ground.
At the end of turn 2, the range line is: Arion and warrior in melee <2.5″> OOF warrior <1.5″> OOF Dmitri.
Arion and the warrior roll around in the dirt, right up to the cliff edge (this is pulp, of course there is a cliff edge). Arion turns his head to look down as the two grapple, each holding the other’s knife hand and trying to avoid being stabbed.
Turn 3 activation: Arion 3, warrior 2. Both activate, Arion goes first. 1d6 vs 3: 1 = pass 1d6. Warrior 3, 5, 5, 6 = pass 1d6. Reroll. Arion: 4 = pass 0d6. Warrior: 4 = pass 0d6. We could be here all night at this rate. (See what I mean about rerolls? I don’t get it.)
Turn 4 activation: Arion 5, warrior 2. Warrior activates and Arion doesn’t, although I don’t see that it matters currently. I can’t see a way for figures to voluntarily break off melee, so we’ll press on. Arion: 1d6 vs 3: 3 = pass 1d6. Warrior: 4d6 vs 3: 4, 2, 3, 6 = pass 2d6. Reroll successes. Arion: 5 = pass 0d6. Warrior: 2, 5 = pass 1d6. Arion is wounded and his Rep reduced by one – but wait; Arion is a Star and has Star Power 2. He thus rolls 2d6 vs 3 to soak that wound… 2, 5 so pass 1d6 and soak one wound.
Gaining a temporary advantage, the Gimirri lunges, and stabs his knife into Arion’s shoulder – but it’s only a flesh wound, and the struggle continues.
Turn 5 activation: Arion 1, warrior 4. Both activate, warrior goes first. Warrior: 4d6 vs 3: 6, 5, 6, 2 = pass 1d6. He is not doing well at all. Arion: 1d6 vs 3: 4, pass 0d6. Time to roll Star Power again: 2d6 vs 3: 3, 4 and soaks the wound again.
The melee continues, and as Arion pushes the knife away from his left eye it leaves a scratch across his face.
Turn 6: I give up on activation as I don’t see how it helps. Arion: 1d6 vs 3: 3 = pass 1d6. Warrior: 4d6 vs 3: 3, 6, 5, 3 = pass 2d6. Reroll successes. Arion 6 = pass 0d6. Warrior 1, 3 = pass 2d6. This will be Wounded, OOF and Rep reduced by one; Star Power to the fore, please. 2d6 vs 3: 1, 1 and soaks two wounds. Hah, we’re tougher than the average bear.
Turn 7: Arion 3 = pass 1d6. Warrior 1, 5, 5, 3 = pass 2d6. Star Power 2, 6 so the wound is soaked, but a 6 means I have to discard that Star Power die for the rest of the scene.
Turn 8: Arion passes 1d6, warrior passes 2d6. Star Power effectively 1; 3, wound soaked.
Turn 9: Arion passes 1d6, warrior passes 2d6. Star Power fails to soak the wound, so Arion is Wounded and his Rep reduced by one to 3. He must now take a crisis test; 2d6 vs Rep (3): 5, 6 = pass 0d6. Arion is Out Of the Fight, and the remaining Gimirri holds the field of battle.
The brutal melee continues unabated for several minutes, but at length the Gimirri headbutts Arion, snapping his head into a nearby boulder. He goes limp. The Gimirri leader rises from the unconscious Arion, sheathes his knife and looks down at the body.
“You fought well, for an offworld weakling,” he pants, wiping blood and sweat from his brow. “You deserve to live, at least for now. I shall take you to the Beast Lord.”
Well, it wouldn’t be pulp without the Star being captured at least once, would it? Scene 13 will occur in Schrodinger’s lair, and will no doubt include the obligatory soliloquy from the Big Bad, and an easily-escapable death trap.
Or more properly, just scenes 10 and 11, as I glossed over scene 9 at the end of scene 8. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed much; scene 9 was a travel scene in which nothing happened. However, I’ve decided that since travel scenes are generally quiet, I’ll merge them into the next story advancing scene unless something interesting happens. I still picture them mentally as one of the montages from Indiana Jones, with a map superimposed over footage of a vehicle, and a red line moving across the map to show travel.
Meanwhile, Arion and Dmitri are en route to the Cyrene Pyramid. I know that they must now find someone and get a clue from him (or her), but there is nothing in the storyline to say that they know that, so I shall proceed as if they didn’t. Many years of refereeing RPGs has made it easy for me to separate what I know from what the little lead figures know.
Is the Big Bad here? 1d6 vs 1: 3. No, he isn’t. That is good, because I’m a little short on time tonight. Is it day or night? 1d6 vs 3: 5, so night.
It’s late the following night, and Arion and Dmitri and seated around a campfire eating supper. The Pyramid is visible nearby over the jungle canopy, because it glows in an eldritch manner. Their campsite is on the remains of an ancient stone road, much overgrown but still visible in places, and marked periodically with stone pillars carved in the shape of robed humanoid figures, holding globes above their heads.
“The pilot’s notes for Cyrene don’t mention that Pyramid glowing in the dark,” Arion says.
“I wish you hadn’t bet the whisky on that shooting challenge,” Dmitri grumbles. “It was the only thing keeping the bugs off. I think it makes sweat smell funny.”
“I don’t mind losing the whisky so much. The bigger problem is that Galen went back to town with them. I keep wondering why he did that.”
Next I determine the difficulty of finding our contact by rolling 2d6 and taking the lower score: 1, 2 so the difficulty is 1, and with neither a suitable skill for finding people in jungles nor any locale modifiers, it stays at 1.. That shouldn’t be too hard. Arion rolls 2d6 vs Rep (4): 1, 5 so pass 1d6. The contact rolls 2d6 vs Difficulty (1): 1, 5 so pass 1d6. Our Heroes and the contact pass the same number of d6, so no chance to find a clue.
“Admit it,” Dmitri says. “You haven’t got a clue what you’re doing. What we need is a trusty native guide, like that guy.” He gestures with his spoon at nearby pillar.
Their contact would have been a robed figure had they found him. I have already mentally tagged him as a representative of the Psionics Institute, which is by tradition in Classic Traveller a shadowy and covert organisation of mysterious motives – just the thing. He didn’t turn up this time, but he might in future scenes. Or maybe I’ve been watching too many reruns of The Champions lately.
I now roll on the Advance the Story table (p. 30): 1d6 + Rep (4) + clues found (2) = 12. Get info from someone in a Story Advancing Scene. (I need at least two more clues before I can move off this entry in the chart. I’m toying with the idea of importing exploding dice from Savage Worlds for this, to speed up progress.) OK. Another Travel Scene coming up; the Where To Next table and 1d6 tell me Arion must now move to a Lost World, and the Available Transport table says On Foot. I roll 1d6 vs 1 for an encounter: 2, so no encounter while travelling.
“Dmitri,” says Arion, “See the Pyramid? There’s a circular patch near the bottom that isn’t glowing. I didn’t notice it earlier. Come on, let’s take a look.”
“Always while I’m eating,” sighs Dmitri; but pausing only to take one last spoonful of whatever it is, he puts down his mess tin and follows Arion along the road to the Pyramid.
“So, you think it tastes vile, but you want to finish it?”
“It’s not like there’s anything else to eat. Gotta keep my strength up.”
It’s only a few hundred metres to the Pyramid, and soon both stand before it, idly flicking torches over the stonework.
“Now there’s something you don’t see every day,” Dmitri comments. “It’s hollow – it goes on forever – and – Oh my God – it’s full of stars!”
(Those of you playing trope bingo may now drink another beer. You can’t have too many stargates in a game.)
“Should we go back and collect our gear?” asks Dmitri.
“If we do that, it might close up again before we can get back here – it wasn’t open before. No way of telling when it might close, or when it might open again. Besides, if you’re good, all you need is a knife.” Arion pats the Service Issue survival knife on his belt.
“I’m not that good, and I’m pretty sure you’re not, either.”
“Wuss. You coming, or not?” Arion strides off into the tunnel, and Dmitri follows, muttering under his breath.
“We’re going to come back to find all our stuff stolen, I just know it.”