Saturday, 30 June 2012

Solo Traveller - Aloin's Saga #3

Golus Downport - image from Pixel Atomicao
The Iridium Queen remained ground-side at Golus Downport for the next four weeks. For Aloin, the days passed in a blur as he struggled to master his basic training under Kiirgun Atmai and familiarise himself with the layout of the ship.

The Iridium Queen was a Harrana Class 200-ton, Tech Level 11, Far Trader – one of eight of this class to come out of Laargashu-Sulluvhan Yard 28 at Celephais. This facility, and much of Celephais Highport, had been heavily damaged during the Kalar-Wi War. While repairs to the Highport were still ongoing, the starship yards remained closed for the foreseeable future and this had resulted in the port’s downgrade from A Class to B Class.

The Harrana Class Far Traders, Aloin discovered, had a two-parsec Jump range and a 1G Acceleration Manoeuvre Drive. Able to carry 61 tons of cargo, 5 cabin passengers, and 4 passengers in Low Berths, the ship was relatively roomy inside. As he learnt the ship, Aloin met the other members of the crew. Aside from Captain Lukk, whom Aloin had to drive to various meetings in the both the Downport and the surrounding Star Town, and Kiirgun Atmai who cheerfully gave him piles of manuals to read and then quizzed him on them, the crew consisted of Engineer Holi Pradeen, and Navigator Miska Ilurrin. Experienced spacers, both Pradeen and Ilurrin were Celephaizons like the Captain, and shared a familiarity born of long association.

Aloin quickly became bored trekking backwards and forwards between the ship and various office suites on the concourse, and then waiting attendance upon the Captain during long, dull meetings. A lot of these meetings seemed to degenerate into tea-drinking sessions, as far as he could see, where the Captain and whoever she was meeting with gossiped for hours over pot after pot of sweet, black, chi.

“I thought we were looking for a cargo”, Aloin said to Kiirgun eventually. “But they just talk. So why am I there?’

“What do they talk about?” Kiirgun asked in reply.

“They just talk about … stuff,” Aloin said. “What’s happening on Miazan; what the President of Kamperel likes for breakfast; who’s top dog in the Hunt of Rronurl this month.” He shrugged.

“And what does this tell you?”

Alorin shrugged again. “That these people gossip worse than the Vulpini Holochannel?”

Kiirgun sighed. “Information, lad”, he said.” Next to credits, information is the hardest currency in Charted Space for a merchant.”

A little light seemed to go on for Aloin. “Oh”, he said. “Oh! Oh, that explains the guy from Jarzeroon Petrochem.”

Kiirgun looked up at him and raised an eyebrow.

“The Jarzeroon guy has been at a couple of these tea-fests”, Aloin continued. “He hasn’t said a lot, but each time he’s moved a seat closer to the Captain, and has made a point of talking to her as the meeting has broken up.

“Today, there was a lot of talk about Miazan and plastics and industrial production numbers. And I think he’s expecting a petrochem shipment in from the wells at Jakabsan North – I saw several Olkathi mooching around the Concourse today who I know range that far north and often act as guides for hauler trains.”

Kiirrgun laughed and clapped his hands. “Yes! Well done. You see, your eyes and ears take in all this information, and you just needed your brain to make the connections. We did not know for sure that there was a shipment, but we did know that the Jarzeroon representative was suddenly very keen to sell.”

Passing Aloin a fizz drink from of the crew common area freeze unit, Kiirgun opened one himself, and then toasted Aloin. “Well done, indeed, young Aloin. You asked why you have been dragged along to these ‘tea-fests’. I think you have your answer. If you have the aptitude to be a cargo broker, you have to be able to mingle and talk with a crowd. You have to be able to see who wants to sell and who wants to buy and bring these people, or their factors, together so a deal is done. You have shown me that you can put the information together, now we just have to give you the skills to extract it from the seller and the buyer in a way that both will trust you.”

I’m having a bit of fun teasing the story along and showing how “Basic Training” might actually work on a Free Trader. I rolled for cargoes on the Speculative Trading Table and got nothing of interest for four weeks. There is a reason that Captain Lukk can afford to sit dirt-side for four weeks waiting for a spec cargo, and this will be revealed later on – I have run this campaign out over a game year so there is still more story to come.

By “show”, rather than “tell”, I am trying to reveal more about the characters of the crew of the Iridium Queen, as well as information about the ship, itself. I’m also thinking that a game page on this blog might be a good thing for storing character UPPs and ship USPs as well.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

T5 Kickstarter in it's Final Days and Website Update #16

I talked about Traveller T5 going into Kickstarter back here. With only four days to go until the Kickstarter period ends, 1473 backers have signed up (ranging from 50 people committing $US1 each to show interest in the project to 8 people committing an eye-watering $US970 each to make this project fly) and over $US200,000 has been pledged.

After long thought, I committed to getting the book and the Jump Drive - essentially a .pdf copy on a flash drive - in spite of my earlier protestations. A chap using the handle Ojno the Red commented on my initial post, above, and his was the first piece of positive news I have heard from the very long development hell this project has languished in.

Will it satisfy everyone as a game system? I doubt it. The problem with Science Fiction is that there are many experts in specific fields and few generalists. This means that there is always someone ready to moan when you don't get a specific detail correct, no matter how unimportant it is to the general game or setting. And as it's a game, there will be those who love the game mechanics and those who don't. Cat Herding is an easier occupation than game designer.

So, I've staked my claim for a book for illogical reasons - just as well I'm not a Vulcan. I'm looking forward to reading the final book, and maybe running some Face-to-Face games as well. I think that once the rule book is out, setting and scenario material may very well follow - or you might actually have to use own your imagination, like we did back in the Little Black Book days, and make stuff up!

And in other news, I have just finished a big update of my modelling blog with new stuff I've finally finished painting. Those of you who are new here might like to take a look and see my other hobby - painting toy soldiers, specifically 15mm science fiction figures. I'm pretty pleased with the results (all the stuff I'm not pleased with gets tossed out the airlock).

Solo Traveller - Aloin's Saga Backgrounder #2

Having introduced a couple of characters, I needed to finalise their stats so I could keep them consistent.  Captain Elera Lukk was obviously going to be a major recurring character, so I played around with the Traveller Character Generator application I mentioned in my last post until I had a Merchant Captain who mostly fitted my preconceptions of Captain Lukk.

It was only after completing Lukk’s character picture, and writing the ‘meet the captain’ scene with Aloin, that I realised Elera Lukk was a tiny woman. Generating a character whose Strength characteristic was reduced to 1 by failing aging rolls just confirmed the character in my mind’s eye. Lukk is old, tiny and frail, but she’s also very smart (which is why she trusts her off-sider, Kiirgun Atmai, and why Aloin felt she was seeing through him). Indifferently educated, Elera Lukk is of high status (which, strangely enough, was something I had already factored into her character before I rolled any dice), being a member of a Celephaizean House Minor of Baronial rank.

While Lukk’s character was generated to age 54, her character picture looks older so I have decided that she is in fact 60 years old and has been in command of the Iridium Queen for the last six years. As befits a well-travelled Captain of her age and experience, she speaks several languages, including Kassuriik , Aerrghvi – a dialect of Gvegh, Vriok – the main Kalar-Wi language, and Trade Lingo.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Solo Traveller - Aloin's Saga #2

The main hatch of the Iridium Queen swung open just as Aloin reached out to push the call button again. A small, grey-haired man looked out, and then up. He kept on looking up until Aloin wondered if his head was going to fall off behind him.

“Hello,” Aloin said politely, trying not to loom over him. “My name is Aloin Grathikka. I was told to report to here. Meccan Vesukka sent me.”

The little man swallowed and blinked. “Aloin?” he said weakly. “Meccan sent you? I was expecting someone a little …”

“Shorter?” Aloin suggested. The little man grinned.

“Kiirgun Atmai, Cargo Master,“ he said. “Come meet the Captain,” he added, inviting Aloin on board.
Walking down the corridor, Aloin found himself ducking instinctively to avoid the overheads and service runs. Stepping into the lift, they were whisked to the upper deck, and then Kiirgun ushered Aloin into the crew common area.

Pushing Aloin into a seat, Kiirgun passed him a fizz drink from a small chiller, and then took one for himself.

Captain Elera Lukk, Iridium Queen
A tiny, elderly woman sauntered into the common area and hoisted herself up onto a stool. Staring intently at Aloin, she produced a curled, edron wood pipe from a pocket and tamped some dry leaf into the bowl. Producing a hot wire from a ring on one gnarled finger, she lit the pipe and drew heavily on it. “What have you brought me, Kiir?” she asked Kiirgun while continuing to examine Aloin through the cloud of sweet smelling smoke she wrapped about her.

 “New crewman, ma’am, Aloin Grathikka,” Kiirgun replied.

“From this dust bowl? Recommended? “

“Yes, ma’am. By Meccan Vesukka, my shuttle pilot on the Arch of Heaven.”

“Pain in the arch, more likely,” the little old woman replied. “Why did she end up here?”

“This is her homeworld.” Kiirgun shrugged. “Not enough people here to make it worth bombing during the war, and during the peace it’s a good place for a quiet life.”

“Or to hide,” the old woman grumbled, relighting her pipe. She looked Aloin directly in the eye. He felt as if she was seeing right through him. “All right, lad, I am Captain Elera Lukk,” she said. “I am master of this ship, the Iridium Queen, and represent the owner aboard. We are a free trader, out of Celephais, and we are honest. We don’t steal, we don’t smuggle, and we steer a course that’s straight and true. If you can abide by these rules, you will have a berth with us for as long as you like. Otherwise? And you will walk home. Understood?”

Aloin straightened up. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Captain Lukk permitted a half-smile to flicker across her face. “You may be a little premature with your thanks,” she replied. “You brought him in, Kiir, so you can process him and see to his basic training.” She slid down off her stool and tapped her pipe out into a waste chute. She glanced back at Aloin. “We have a little time, dirt-side, while we’re waiting on a cargo. Use this time wisely and learn this ship,” she said sharply. “When we lift, we won’t be carrying passengers.” She strode out of the common area, heading forward.

Aloin looked downcast. “Cheer up, lad,” Kiirgun said, slapping him lightly on the shoulder. “She didn’t throw you off the ship, so you have a berth and a job. Let’s go get the paperwork squared away, and a bunk sorted for you. And then we’ll get to work.”

So, that’s sort of how Aloin ended up as an apprentice crewman on the Iridium Queen.

His father’s partner had served with the Gunner/Cargo Master Kiirgun Atmai (oh, he didn’t mention that he is also the ship’s gunner? That was a bit remiss of him when meeting a young man he doesn’t know) on a previous ship. The fact that “the war” was also mention would seem to indicate that their mutual service was during, or soon after “the war”. The last war to affect the Miazan Subsector was the 4th Outrim War which ended in 1085. The Kalar-Wi War, which occured just to Coreward in Gamelea Subsector, finished in 1105, and as the current game date is 1107, and Aloin’s father and Meccan Vesukka have been together for at least four years, it is unlikely that “the war” Kiirgun was referring to is the Kalar-Wi War.

Captain Elera Lukk and Kiirgun Atmai would appear to have some history in that she trusts his judgement with regards to new hires, and she knows, or knows of, people that he knows. Lukk’s age and physical size changed a lot as I generated a bunch of Merchant characters to get the skill-set I wanted. I’m quite happy with the final result I achieved for her, and I’m starting to get a feel for her and what she is like as a character. 

I have found a piece of freeware called 'Traveller Character Generator', which is available from, amongst other places, CNET, and have been having some fun generating Book 1 characters to flesh out the crew of the Iridium Queen. I used to have a little programme that would generate Book 1 and Supplement 4 characters, but I seem to have lost it when my old computer died.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Solo Traveller - Aloin's Saga Backgrounder

Aloin Grathikka
Having introduced Aloin out of the blue, the next question is, “So, what’s he like? “

Aloin’s character was rolled up using the Mongoose Traveller rules. If we look at his physical stats, we see that he has a Strength of B (or 11), a Dexterity of 8 and an Endurance of 9 – or Above Average Strength (+1 DM in Mongoose Traveller terms), Average Dexterity and Above Average Endurance (again, a +1 DM in Mongoose Traveller terms). We have a picture of a physically fit young man, and if we check out the Height and Table (now thoughtfully attached to the main page of this blog), we see that he stands 5’10” or 175cm and weighs 155lbs or 77.5kg.

We now determine the surface gravity of the Aloin’s race’s homeworld and the surface gravity of his birthworld, Golus. Aloin is human so we determine that his “racial gravity” is Normal. Golus is a small, dense world with a surface gravity of approximately 0.4G.

This result, Normal Homeworld Gravity, Light Birthworld Gravity gives a result of:
Reduces Strength by 2, Endurance by 1, increases Height by 25% and decreases Mass by 20%.

So, Aloin’s Physical Stats become: Strength 9, Dexterity 8 and Endurance 8. His height increases to 7’2” or 218.75cm and his mass decreases to 137 lbs or 62kg. He is very tall and very thin, but wiry and strong, like a basketball player.

Aloin’s non-physical characteristic stats are Intelligence 7, Education 7 and Social Status 8. This means that Aloin is of Average Intelligence and Education, and of a middle-class background. As Aloin is yet to gain either Steward or Carouse Skill, he has yet to develop a “facility to learn languages”. He does, however, have a Language pool of 7 – being the average of his Intelligence and Education. His native language is Miazan Imperial Basic, the dialect of Imperial Basic spoken along the Miazan Main, which he speaks at level 3 – Good Communication. He also speaks Sahsah sai, the main Olkathi language spoken by the Olkathi tribes in and around Tartesh, to level 2 – Average Communication.

We now have a clearer picture of Aloin and what he looks like. I must admit that his height caught me by surprise, which is a good thing when your characters do that.
Aloin Grathikka - revised

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Solo Traveller - Aloin's Saga #1

Aloin Grathikka was born on the desert world of Golus in the Miazan Subsector. His father, Gealar Grathikka, was a Water Miner. Gealar worked on the Aldesarn Valley Project to bring ice slurry from Golus’ northern icecap south across the Jakabsan Range to the marginal farmlands in the Aldesarn Valley region, south and west of Tartesh, the capital town of Golus. Aloin’s mother, Imeneene, was the pilot of a free trader and was offworld, more often than not, while Aloin was growing up. It was only later in life that Aloin learned more about his mother’s offworld activities and how many shades of grey she existed in.

When Aloin was fourteen, his parents separated and his father took up with Meccan Vesukka, a maintenance tech at Golus Downport. Aloin had spent a lot of time growing up as a latch key kid in Tartesh, hanging out after school with the native Olkathi younglings who would drift into the local parks while their parents were water-drunk, but his father’s new living arrangements necessitated a move to the bleak urban wasteland of Golus Downport. By the time he was eighteen, Aloin had little idea about what he wanted to do with his life, except that he wanted to get off Golus and leave the desert dry behind.

Meccan Vesukka was able to use her contacts to find a berth for Aloin aboard the free trader Iridium Queen, Captain Elera Lukk, out of Celephais, and currently shorthanded. And so on 104-1107 Aloin ducked through the main hatch of the Iridium Queen and watched it close tight against the desert vistas of Golus.

This is Aloin’s character sheet, created with the Mongoose Traveller rules – after the end of his first term. I do like the pre-enlistment Skill sets that come from the character’s home world. This part of the character creation process was absent in Classic Traveller but, I believe, was introduced in one of the later versions of the rules.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Gazolan Subsector #5 – Moving Again

It has been a number of months since I last looked at Gazolan Subsector. Rolling up an entire subsector of average and below average Tech Level worlds with indifferent to rubbish starports was rather depressing – I had anticipated a spread of Tech Levels and facilities, though I expected a much wider spread over 30 systems.

Looking at the Trade codes, I see a lot of Poor, Non-Industrial and Non-Agricultural worlds. My initial concept for the Julnar Reach, with its Poor, Non-Industrial worlds, was that the 10th Century mining boom – mentioned previously in connection with Tulvan in Gamelea Subsector - had paid out and that the Reach Systems had then experienced a decades-long economic depression. I still like this idea and it gells with the results I rolled up for this section of the Gazolan Subsector, so I will lock in the main world names and UWPs for the Coreward end of the Julnar Reach and declare them complete.

I did play around with the idea that, as Gazolan Subsector has been a battle field subsector on a number of occasions, the economy, infrastructure and facilities of the systems within the subsector had taken repeated hits and were still recovering. The 4th Outrim War of 1080 – 85 was the last major war that might have impacted Gazolan Subsector. While the main theatre of conflict was further Rimward in Gamelea and Miazan Subsectors, Outrim Coalition naval units most certainly pushed over the border through Daltharmai Subsector, and along the Daltharmai Main, into Gazolan Subsector.

I have decided that the Azakarii Cluster (previously Constellation E) and the Miigaurshish (the Wedding Cup) contain the Industrial worlds of the subsector – these were the systems that fell initially to the Imperial advance in the mid 6th Century, prior to the extended period of conflict that was to ultimately destroy Sector Duke Kolin I’s dynasty. It was here that the Outrim incursions of the 4th Outrim War were halted. Given that Thiroor, the Subsector Capital, is at 2213, right on the rim of the Wedding Cup, and that House Hendrian of Thiroor’s power base was firmly fixed amongst the Miigaurshish systems, it is likely that this region of space is well settled and well developed. Just over a decade after the end of the 4th Outrim War, Subsector Duke Akansair of Thiroor became Akansair I, Sector Duke of the RimWorlds.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

T5 now in Kickstarter

A link popped up on Facebook yesterday that took me through to this Kickstarter page. After over a decade in development, it looks as if Traveller 5, or T5, is almost complete. From the blurb:
“This is Traveller’s 35th year, and Marc has worked for several years on what he calls the Ultimate Edition: Traveller5. It includes so many things that players have asked for, or that have been imperfectly handled previously. In fact, Marc recently said there are now systems and chapters that he didn’t know how to design way back then. But he does now, and they are included. T5 has technology beyond TL 15, clones, robots, computers, artificial intelligence, QREBS (!), alien senses, Flux. It has a whole series of easy-to-use Makers: GunMaker, VehicleMaker, ArmorMaker, RobotMaker, SophontMaker, ThingMaker. It includes mapping of star systems and worlds; there's ever the MOARN caveat: Map Only As Really Necessary, or referees would spend all their time just making maps of worlds and systems. There's a rationalized section on Psionics, and more, much more.”
Now, I was initially a bit sceptical about the final coming of T5. I still have all my Classic Traveller books, so being required to pledge $US140 (including postage to West Auckland) for a new, 600-page hardback version of the rules seemed a little steep. And while I like Mongoose Traveller, and have a lot of the MongTraveller supplements, I have yet to play it – so, again, is $US140 for a new version of the game really worth it to me?

Having watched Marc Miller’s pitch video on the Kickstarter page, I’m now in two minds about T5 – the Maker systems sound very interesting; like taking the design systems from High Guard, Striker, and Fire, Fusion and Steel and expanding them to cover all sorts of systems. The expansion of Tech Levels beyond TL 15 allows for items of Godtech to exist within your game, on a rational basis with other systems.

Part of me says, “we always just sketched it and winged it, because you do not need to count all the rivets to tell a story”, and part of me would really like some decent design tables.

I may very well end up taking the $US51 support option and get the rules on CD-ROM, or wait until they come out in print. Panzerboy Discontent is the only other blogger, I am aware of, to have mentioned the T5 Kickstarter, though there is a topic on the Mongoose Traveller Forum and on the Steve Jackson Games GURPs: Traveller forum.