Monday, December 24, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: Identifying Interstellar Threats...

Good Afternoon, All:

Step Six in the process of developing a sandbox setting for the Traveller Sandbox Experiment is to define a number of worlds as Interstellar Threats, or locations where setpoint adventures focused on aggressive attackers can take place. These worlds are home to the ubiquitous pirate dens, rogue colonies and other aggressors that occasionally harass their interstellar neighbors. In terms of gaming experiences, these worlds exist to provide plenty of options for themed random encounters and widely known bad guys in the Beta Quadrant. These are, in essence, the monster lairs of a Traveller campaign setting.

In addition to identifying the worlds of origin for these interstellar nuisances, this section also allows me the chance to create a list of potential encounter types, in a manner similar to the Encounter Scenarios I've created for previous settings here on In Like Flynn. As an interesting side note, in the original sourcebook for fantasy sandboxes that inspired this experiment, An Echo Resounding, lairs often had a 33% chance (5+ on 1d6) of attacking a nearby site (a settlement or resource) between sessions. I think that keeping this element may add to the feeling of a living, breathing setting in the minds of the players. I'll probably devote a post to that at the end of Step Six.

Now, in adapting the fantasy sandbox building methods suggested in An Echo Resounding to a science fiction setting as we have been doing so far, the elements attributed to Lairs locations can be easily implemented here, with a new table implemented to reflect an interstellar setting. In essence, the Lair Natures table should become the Interstellar Threats table.

First, though, we should identify our candidate Interstellar Threats. This is perhaps the best opportunity so far for freehand selection. Aside from those worlds that have Pirate Bases, of course, the Referee is pretty much able to select systems as they please. I would suggest that the general thought process focus on the following points:

  1. Interstellar Threats should be within two parsecs of one or more Cultural Hubs or Resource Worlds. After all, if the threat doesn't impact people, then it won't get attention on an interstellar scale.
  2. Non-aligned worlds, or worlds aligned with a different polity than the ones they are attacking, make for great systems from which to launch an Interstellar Threat.
  3. You probably should consider worlds with a Class D or Class C starport (although other types work as well, I suppose), because those have a rough frontier feel and less traffic, which allows Interstellar Threats to propagate.
  4. In general, you definitely want a world with TL 9 or higher, if one is available. That's to make sure the bad guys can repair their vessels using local tech, when push comes to shove. Of course, if they are using a Low Tech world as their headquarters, then that may be the reason they're raiding nearby worlds.

First, I look to see if there are any Pirate Bases that have been generated for Beta Quadrant. Sadly, I didn't find any (aside from the one we gave to Mudhava), which makes me question my UWP generator, but that's beside the point. For now, I'll let that go and move forward with evaluating worlds for possible Interstellar Threats. Ultimately, I think I want to make sure that at least 75% of the Resource Worlds and 50% of the Cultural Hubs are covered by Interstellar Threats. It would help if I could look at a map that has all of them marked so I could make some judgement calls... And lo and behold, thanks to, here one is:

Segin Sector with Important Worlds Marked

Looking at that, I begin to put together some options:

  • Aseramachi (Segin 2214 C300678-8): Because it is in a great position to strike on the worlds of the Litha League, as well as the majority of the worlds on the short Orvil-Heujava Main.
  • Bastet (Segin 1908 C558534-5): Because it can strike at Abrakos, Sutekh and a number of other great worlds. The low Tech Level tells me this is a more temporary base camp, and that the Interstellar Threats require external sources for all repairs and starship supplies.
  • Daruma (Segin 2605 D7CA211-A Amber Zone): Because it is a Class D starport within two parsecs of both Koyane and Suijin, and has a wide host of other targets, too.
  • Djinn (Segin 3212 C658311-9): Because it is within two parsecs of a number of great worlds to hit, including Milamapar.
  • Fujin (Segin 3103 D410200-8 Amber Zone): Because it is a Class D starport within two parsecs of Kangiten (and even Chedenoma, Minamoto and Ninigi) and three parsecs of Jizo.
  • Loko (Segin 2207 C69A316-B): Because it is a great place to attack three different target worlds (Abrakos, Gleti and Jengu).
  • Lutasas (Segin 3118 C759848-8): Because it is within two parsecs of Umikeo, Malen and four other great worlds to plunder.
  • Mantis (Segin 2712 C500343-8): Because it is the only non-Jurisdiction world within two parsecs of Tabaldak.
  • Pakhet (Segin 2111 C620300-B Amber Zone): Because it is in a great position to do privateer work against Ghandi and Mami Wata, in addition to a few other non-Empire worlds.
  • Qetesh (Segin 2003 C100348-B): Because it has a great location, with a lot of smaller targets to hit, as well as Nayame.
  • Sadyra (Segin 2319 C9B9300-9 Amber Zone): Because it is two parsecs from Desa and three from Tesla, although Seshalama (Segin 2417 DA79422-8) may be better for Tesla.

Okay, that looks like eleven different worlds (or twelve, if we decide to go back and include Seshalama.) That's plenty of potential adversaries to build into the campaign setting to start with, and a lot of job opportunities for a military or mercenary campaign. Now that we've identified the Interstellar Threats for Beta Quadrant, in my next post, I'll create the Interstellar Threats table, and I'll start making some notes about our future antagonists.

More Later,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best Wishes for a Merry Solstice...

Good Afternoon, All:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "AMERICA" in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical disability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.

Legal Disclaimer: By accepting this agreement, you are accepting these terms.

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

(Name withheld for legal, social and cultural considerations.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: Sample Exploration Site Write-Ups...

Good Afternoon, All:

Before moving on to Lairs, I wanted to wrap up the Expedition Sites discussion with write-ups of our three example worlds. As always, each example is fleshed out in the form of Library Data entries on the three worlds in question. Note that the write-ups are written with a few specific goals: maximize the potential for flavor and adventure, yet remain concise so as to avoid overloading the reader with extraneous details.

Mudhava (Segin 2414 E526330-6): The early history of world of Mudhava paints a colorful picture of being a port of call for privateers, corsairs and interstellar raiders. Even now, several popular adventure holovid series refers to the world by its old nickname, "Mud Haven." Originally settled by followers of the exiled Asuran military commander Rajesh Mudhava, its markets became known throughout the Beta Quadrant as a site where anything can be bought or sold, if one is determined enough. Late in life, King Rajesh I, as Commander Mudhava had come to be known, contracted Mirandan Fever, which slowly drove him insane. Realizing his predicament, Commander Mudhava used his pirate fleet to capture several prominent medical researchers and set them to finding a cure. According to rumor, the researchers were nearing a success when the most senior captains under Commander Mudhava mutinied against their leader and slaughtered him and most of his supporters, including the researchers. In the end, privateers loyal to Mudhava overturned the mutineers, and returned leadership of the world to Mudhava's eldest daughter. The old pirate base lies abandoned on the outskirts of the Mudhavan colony, and is believed to be cursed by superstitious locals. Several efforts have been mounted to reclaim the base and its contents, but each have met with their own unusual series of deadly accidents, perpetuating the belief that the site is cursed.

Prishiboro (Segin 2810 E596568-5): Until three decades ago, the world of Prishiboro was called Izanagi, formerly a colony of the Koyone Shogunate. During the Jengu-Koyane War, the Jengu Fleet captured the planet after bombarding Izanagi's capitol city, Kojiki, from high orbit, and renamed the garden world Prishiboro. Today, only scavengers and off-world raiders risk travel into the irradiated and wartorn city in search of lost riches to recover. In recent years, nests of mizuchi, lethal parasitic creatures common to Prishiboro's jungles, have infested the ruins of Kojiki, making such excursions even more dangerous. The Emishi Faction, the current theocratic rulers of the Koyane Shogunate, once hailed from Izanagi, and only plotted and performed a successful coup against their psionic overlords after their world was taken by the Jengu and the former rulers known as Fujiwara Clan did nothing to recover their sacred homeworld. The Emishi have sponsored several small expeditions into the ruins of Kojiki that have returned empty-handed, but few know the object of their quest.

Tajimamori (Segin 2608 X410244-8 Red Zone): This star system is noteworthy for an astrographic hazard called the Tajimamori Effect. Early explorers to the system reported an unusual form of electromagnetogravitic (EMG) interference that causes significant disruption of unshielded and weakly-shielded electronic systems. Over time, the Tajimamori Effect has become increasingly stronger. Despite official claims by the Koyane Shogunate that this is a natural phenomenon, conspiracy theorists believe that the EMG interference is a byproduct of military weapon research conducted at a secret base hidden within the system. The planet of Tajimamori itself, which appears to be at the center of the disturbance, suffers from high levels of radiation, frequently attributed by scientists to the unstable anomaly. Referee's Note: This system is the home of an malfunctioning Progenitor portal device (known conveniently as the Tajimamori Portal), as well as a Progenitor Ansibular Star Chart (aka the Tajimamori Map), which experiences near-instantaneous updates despite the great distances involved. This requires data to be transmitted by some means that is far faster than that transmitted at the speed of light. The exact details of how this occurs has completely eluded scientists to this point.

Now that we are done with Exploration Sites, we are free to move on to the next stage of the Traveller Sandbox Experiment: Lairs! Soon, we'll know have a much stronger idea of what's terrorizing some of the outlying star systems, or at least Travellers who happen to be in the area. This sounds like fun to me!

With Regards,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: The Exploration Site Challenges Table...

Good Afternoon, All:

All Exploration Sites must still possess their wealth after all this time, or they wouldn't be useful for purposes of gaming. Therefore, something must be standing guard over that valuable, or at least preventing people from exploiting it. It's hard to catalogue all of the possibilities that exist in many Traveller Universes, but I will at least try to hit the most common elements in my efforts below. The reason I decided to create a separate table for Exploration Site Challenges is because sites require more active interference, and so I aimed for more problems and complications on a personal level rather than on a world level.

Inspired by the Ruin Obstacles table in An Echo Resounding, I offer the following table for determining Exploration Site Challenges. As always, please note that it contains what I believe to be common Traveller tropes for exploration site challenges, based on character creation rules and other system elements found in the core rulebook. Your Traveller Universe may be different from mine regarding those underlying assumptions. If you come across an entry that doesn't seem to fit your needs, please feel free to change it for your own personal setting development.

Table: Exploration Site Challenges
d66Exploration Site Challenges
11Alien Invaders
12Anti-Psi Cultists
13Bounty Hunters
14Cannibalistic Locals
15Crime Syndicate
16Dangerous Parasites
21Deadly Spies
22Dueling Rakes
23Enemy Terrorists
24Enigmatic Conspirators
25Feuding Families
26Fierce Predators
31Fleeing Traitors
32Game Wardens
33Government Interference
34Harsh Conditions
35Hidden Evil
36High Radiation
41Illegal Poachers
42Infected Mobs
43Life-Hating AI
44Living Planet
45Man-Eating Monsters
46Occupation Forces
51Progenitor Defenses
52Psionic Adepts
53Raiding Offworlders
54Ravenous Pests
55Religious Zealots
56Resistance Fighters
61Secret Assassins
62Sovereign Guardians
63Stealthy Saboteurs
64Unscrupulous Smugglers
65Vigilant Psi-Warriors
66Referee's Choice (Something Unusual)

Using the table above, I generated an Exploration Site Challenge for each of the three Exploration Sites we're using as examples. Here's what I came up with:

For Mudhava (Segin 2414 E526330-6), I rolled "Stealthy Saboteurs". Our exploration site was a Pirate Base, and is valued by patrons for the Scientific Research found within it. Adding saboteurs into the mix works in this instance. One of the biggest challenges that adventuring PCs will face in exploring this site will likely be rivals from among the surviving members of the original corsair band. They cannot find the treasure they believe is in the base, and thus they will sabotage the efforts of any other treasure hunters, hoping to keep them from obtaining the valuables hidden within the base. There's probably a lot of traps and ambushes, etc., that will plague explorers. This reminds me of a kobold warren in fantasy games, so this scenario works for me.

I generated "Dangerous Parasites" for Prishiboro (Segin 2810 E596568-5). As a reminder, our exploration site was a Wartorn City, and is valued by patrons for the Sacred Reliquary found within it. This could be lots of fun, as my initial idea reminds me a lot of the scenario from the movie Aliens. There are nests of these creatures throughout the ruins, and they tend to enrage any creature that they infest. This lets me add in some flavor from the movie Cujo, too. Oh, yes, this will definitely be run as a horror scenario.

Rolling for Tajimamori (Segin 2608 X410244-8 Red Zone) produced a result of "High Radiation". In this particular case, our exploration site was a Secret Base, and is valued by patrons for the Treasure Map found within it, with the added complication that there are Electronic Disruptions occurring in the system. This particular hazard creates another challenge for explorers, particularly if I put in situations that threaten to compromise suit integrity in addition to electronics complications. This is a situation where the environment is the enemy, more than anything else. (There will definitely be other challenges, too, but the big one will be the environment.) The flavor is distinct from our first two examples, so I'm good with how this has come together.

In our next post, I'll put all of this together into some world write-ups, then we can move into the next stage of the Traveller campaign setting development process: Lairs! Oh, yes, we're going to have a lot of fun with the active antagonists that will rear their ugly heads in that section of the development.

With Regards,

Friday, December 14, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: The Exploration Site Traits Table...

Good Afternoon, Fellow Travellers:

In order for an Exploration Site to be useful in terms of gaming, it must have something of value that attracts attention from patrons, who will then hire the player-characters to recover that valuable thing. In many Traveller Universes, these valuables are often Ancient artifacts, weapons, starships or information. I like all of those, but I also think there are other items of value that could draw the attention of a patron or even a player-character.

Inspired by the Ruin Traits table in An Echo Resounding, I offer the following table for determining Exploration Site Traits. As always, please note that it contains what I believe are common Traveller tropes for exploration site traits, based on character creation rules and other system elements found in the core rulebook. Your Traveller Universe may be different from mine regarding those underlying assumptions. If you come across an entry that doesn't seem to fit your needs, please feel free to change it for your own personal setting development.

Table: Exploration Site Traits
d66Exploration Site Trait
11Abandoned Equipment
12Advanced Technology
13Ancient Artifacts
14Artificial Intelligence
15Biomedical Technology
16Communication Tower
21Damning Evidence
22Deserted Facility
23Diaspora Relics
24Exotic Livestock
25Experimental Equipment
26Hidden Treasures
31Imprisoned Aliens
32Inspiring Artwork
33Legal Documents
34Life Support Systems
35Lost Heirs
36Luxury Goods
41Military Equipment
42Military Records
43Operational Battlestation
44Power Source
45Psionic Techniques
46Rich Resources
51Sacred Reliquary
52Scientific Research
53Survival Cache
54Symbol of Sovereignty
55Top Secret Reports
56Treasure Map
61Unclaimed Spaceport
62Unusual Starship
63Useful Location
64Weapons Cache
65Willing Recruits
66Referee's Choice (Unusual Valuable)

Using the table above, I generated three site traits, one each for the three Exploration Sites we're using as examples. Here's what I came up with:

For Mudhava (Segin 2414 E526330-6), I rolled "Scientific Research". This may seem a little strange on a Pirate Base, but let's see what we can come up with. Perhaps the leader of the Pirate community held a strong desire for a cure to a rare but lethal disease found on a number of the frontier worlds of Beta Quadrant, and actually supported localized medical research through raiding nearby worlds in order to get that cure. Although the Pirate Commander never announced success before his death, rumors abound that his researchers had come very close to a cure before their untimely death. Patrons will likely seek characters out in order to raid the Pirate Base site for the Scientific Research that the scientists had gathered.

I generated "Power Source" for Prishiboro (Segin 2810 E596568-5). At TL 5, I'm not sure that's going to be a good choice, so I roll again and get "Sacred Reliquary". Suddenly, I've got pictures in my head of Izanagi (now known as Prishiboro) being the origin of the religious cult that wiped out the psionicists on Koyane. Perhaps it was the loss of their homeworld and the sacred reliquary that motivated them to move against their psionic overlords. Patrons could easily hire characters to penetrate the depths of the city lying in ruins, hoping to seek out the sacred relics and return them to the patron. And on top of that, I've got more history for the Koyane Shogunate. Excellent!

Looking at Tajimamori (Segin 2608 X410244-8 Red Zone), I came up with "Life Support System". Okay, so we've got a Secret Base generating Electronics Disruption, and the trait about the site that makes it valuable to a patron is its Life Support System. Nah, I don't like it, so I reroll and get "Treasure Map." This is more like it! Since one might think that the advanced technology being developed at the Secret Base would be a patron's goal, let's now assume that the site, upon discovery, has been moved. Perhaps there's records that indicate where the tech has been moved to, or perhaps it isn't secret weapon technology after all, but it's research into teleportation or something like that, and the map shows where the facility's personnel have gone. The equipment left behind continues to generate the disruptions... Oh, this could go on for quite a bit. I like this result, as it gets my blood pumping with neat ideas. After a little thought, I decide that the Secret Base is researching a Progenitor portal device that opens wormholes to distant locations, like a Stargate or a Sherman Ring. Activating it has caused some torsion of the local space-time continuum, which is the source of the Electronics Disruption. One of the items used to attempt to activate it is a Progenitor star chart hologram that demonstrates vast sections of space, and several patrons want it bad for their own nefarious purposes. This carries a hint of the Zhodani Core Expedition star map artifact, so it appeals to my "Inner Traveller Canonista".

More fun is coming together behind the scenes with these details, which in turn inspires me in creating world write-ups. Still, we are not done yet. We still have one more substep in this process to go: Exploration Site Challenges. Next post, we look at these Challenges and see where that takes us.

With Regards,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: The Exploration Site Origins Table...

Good Afternoon, All:

Every exploration site was created for a reason. In the published Traveller Universe and those inspired by it, the mysterious sites that the players get to explore are often created by sentient beings, either recently or in the great and distant past (generally speaking, the Ancients). On other occasions, they are natural structures such as cave systems that have been exploited by sentient beings for a given purpose. Aside from extensive animal lairs, I agree with that concept.

With a nod to the Ruin Natures table in An Echo Resounding, I offer the following table for determining Exploration Site Origins. Please note that it contains what I believe are common Traveller tropes for exploration site origins, based on character creation rules and other system elements found in the core rulebook, but your Traveller Universe may be different from mine regarding those underlying assumptions. If you come across an entry that doesn't seem to fit your needs, please feel free to change it for your own personal setting development.

Table: Exploration Site Origins
d66Exploration Site Origin
11Abandoned Colony
12Ancient Site
13Animal Lair
15Asteroid Ship
16Cavern System
21Communication Center
22Corporate Headquarters
23Crashed Starship
24Foreign Consulate
25Frontier Outpost
26Government Facility
31Isolated Spaceport
32Medical Center
33Mining Colony
34Naval Base
35Noble Estate
36Outlying Settlement
41Pirate Base
42Planetary Defense Silo
43Prison Complex
44Psionic Institute
45Religious Temple
46Research Facility
51Scout Base
52Secret Base
53Space Station
54Temporary Encampment
55Terraforming Plant
56Tourist Resort
61Trading Post
62Training Center
63University Campus
64Wartorn City
65Wildlife Preserve
66Referee's Option (Unusual Site)

Using the table above, I generated three possible site origins, one each for the three Exploration Sites we're using as examples. (One of these is a Red Zone, so we can use that table, too.) Here are the three worlds I've chosen to explore:

Mudhava (Segin 2414 E526330-6): Starport Class E (Frontier); Medium (Low-G); Very Thin (Tainted); Wet World; Low Pop (9,000); Self-perpetuating Oligarchy; No Law; Pre-Stellar Tech. No Bases. Trade Codes: Low Pop. Non-aligned.

Prishiboro (Segin 2810 E596568-5): Starport Class E (Frontier); Medium (Low-G); Dense (Tainted); Wet World; Mod Pop (200,000); Colony/Captive World; High Law; Industrial Tech. No Bases. Trade Codes: Agricultural World, Garden World, Low Tech and Non-Industrial World. Jengu Alliance.

Tajimamori (Segin 2608 X410244-8 Red Zone): Starport Class X (Interdicted); Medium (Low-G); Trace; Desert World; Low Pop (300); Representative Democracy; Mod Law; Pre-Stellar Tech. No Bases. Trade Codes: Low Pop. Koyane Shogunate.

When considering Mudhava (Segin 2414 E526330-6), I generated "Pirate Base". Okay, we have a noble family reigning over nine thousand people, with no true laws in place regarding offworlders, at least. Perhaps the only way they survive as a colony is through trading with pirates. Although there are no bases in the UWP, I may go back and add a Pirate Base to represent the use of this system as a port of call for pirates, given their status here. A pirate base provides a great source for adventures and exploration, due to the accumulated treasures of starships and outlying colonies that could be help in storage here. Perhaps a collector could hire the party to recover a stolen item... hmmm, the seeds are already coming to me. Heck, this even suggests a nice background detail: Among interstellar pirates, Mudhava is known colloquially as "Mud Haven."

For the garden world of Prishiboro (Segin 2810 E596568-5), I rolled "Wartorn City". Noting that Prishiboro has a Government code of 6 (Colony/Captured World), this fit perfectly with the concept that perhaps this planet has recently changed hands from the Koyane Shogunate to the Jengu Alliance during the most recent war between these two polities. My imagination ran with that idea: The world of Izanagi originally belonged to the Koyane Shogunate, but after capture during the Jengu-Koyane War (or whatever I call it later), it was renamed as Prishiboro by the Jengu Alliance. (Both names come from a primary god of their pantheon, and each lost their wife, though by different means. It seemed a nice tie-in to use the two names in conjunction.) The system originally had a much larger population and a better starport, but after a planetary bombardment by the Jengu fleet, the best places to land a ship are now abandoned parking lots. The primary city was destroyed, but the ruins of the city are now scavenged by survivors of the planetary assault as well as off-world raiders. I'll likely need a good MacGuffin to bring player-characters to this world, but the opportunities for exploration look pretty good, just on this small bit alone.

For the desert planet of Tajimamori (Segin 2608 X410244-8 Red Zone), I came up with an Exploration Site Origin of "Secret Base". Because it's a Red Zone, I also came up with a reason for that status, which turned out to be "Electronics Disruption". (Okay, originally, I rolled "Wildlife Preserve" but that didn't fit the UWP.) Now I can combine those two, and come up with an idea like the following: Travel inside the system of Tajimamori is dangerous due to unusual electromagnetic-gravitic interference that disrupts unshielded and even poorly-shielded electronic systems. While the Koyane Shogunate claim that it is due to a natural phenomenon, the truth is that the system is actually a secret military base researching weapon technology, which is generating the interference. Ah, the joys of exploring a secret military base in search of advanced weapon technology brings a cackle to my lips... I mean, it prompts interest in writing a cool adventure or two for future player-characters in this setting.

Already, these three worlds are shaping up for some very interesting opportunities for exploration, but we're not done yet. We still have two more sub-steps in this process to go: Exploration Site Traits and Challenges. Next post, we look at Traits and see where that takes us.

With Regards,

Monday, December 10, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: Identifying Exploration Sites...

Good Afternoon, All:

Step Five in the process of developing a sandbox setting for the Traveller Sandbox Experiment is to define ten worlds as Exploration Sites. These worlds contain ruins, abandoned colonies, and similar sites that can serve the need for exploration-based adventures in Sci-Fi games. In terms of gaming experiences, these worlds exist to provide plenty of options for greedy merchants, adrenalin-junkie mercenaries and similar entrepreneurial spirits to pursue within Beta Quadrant. These are, in essence, the Dungeons or Ruins of a Traveller campaign setting.

Using the fantasy sandbox building methods suggested in An Echo Resounding and adapting them to a science fiction setting as we have been so far, the elements attributed to Ruins locations can be easily implemented here, with new tables to reflect an interstellar setting, of course. Ruin Natures should become Exploration Site Origins. Ruin Traits would transform into Exploration Site Traits. Ruin Obstacles could conceivably use my System Challenges table, but I think there's enough interesting challenges unique to Exploration Sites that I could probably create an Exploration Site Challenges table. I'll have to wait and see how that last one pans out, though.

First, though, we should identify our candidate Exploration Sites. While I have made a big deal about Red Zones over the last few posts, those are not the only source for Exploration Sites. Looking at the map and identifying any backwater sites far from any of the worlds we've currently outlined as Cultural Hubs and Resource Worlds could point us to other potential candidates. First, I should create a list of Red Zone worlds from the UWPs I've already generated. Once we look that over, we'll expand our search as we see fit to cover other star systems.

Looking over the UWPs for Beta Quadrant, I see the following worlds are noted as Red Zones:

Thoth         1702 X410200-8    De Lo           R  703 Se M0 V M3 V*
Tajimamori    2608 X410244-8    De Lo           R  304 Ks M4 V* M8 V
Malsumis      2814 X410232-8    De Lo           R  123 Tj (K6 V M2 V)
Hibrea        3115 X300355-8    De Lo Va        R  300 Na M9 V

Interestingly enough, there are only four Red Zones in Beta Quadrant (right now), and three of them are claimed by an interstellar polity. Given the relative duplicative nature of each of these worlds, it appears that something in this sector makes worlds with physical characteristics of 410 highly desirable for worlds to Interdict. However, after searching through the list of UWPs, there are easily a dozen or more inhabited worlds with those characteristics. This, of course, makes sense. These worlds are roughly Mars-like, which makes for fine worlds to choose for settlements when an Earth-like world isn't present in the system.

So, I've got to find six other worlds that should be included as Exploration Sites. Looking at the map again, I start to contemplate options. First, I look for interesting isolated worlds (with a Class D Starport or worse), to give player-characters an excuse to travel across Beta Quadrant. These worlds seem like good options:

  • 1820-410 (Segin 1820 X410000-0): Because it's isolated in the spinward-rimward corner of Beta Quadrant.
  • 3120-300 (Segin 3120 X300000-0): Because it is isolated in the rimward-trailing corner of Beta Quadrant. Let's make the party travel, because that's how sandboxes work best.
  • Mirasen (Segin 3209 E540337-5): Because it's in a small cluster near a non-human homeworld, and I want more excuses to deal with a non-human race.
  • Mudhava (Segin 2414 E526330-6): Because I wanted a second Exploration Site in Litha Subsector (Subsector G), and it has one of the worst Starports in the subsector.
  • Prishiboro (Segin 2810 E596568-5): Because it has one of the worst Starports in Koyane Subsector (Subsector D), and it's a Garden world. This lets me add more wilderness elements to any adventures that happen on that planet.
  • Tefnut (Segin 2005 D410204-8): Because it's fairly isolated at the end of the short main it sits on, buffered by an uninhabited world, and because I wanted a second Exploration Site in Gleti Subsector (Subsector C).
As you can see, this part involves a lot more thought on my part, but I like that, as it gives me a better chance to personalize the setting to fit my personal needs as a Referee setting up adventure opportunities. Now that we've identified the Exploration Site for Beta Quadrant, in my next post, I'll look at the next sub-step in the process. It's time to create the Exploration Site Origins table!

More Later,

Friday, December 07, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: The Red Zone Reason Table...

Good Afternoon, All:

In any Traveller campaign, some worlds are denoted as having Red Zone status. Whatever the reason behind that status might be, you can bet that Referees can use it to create interesting adventures, and player-characters can find some excuse to visit the place just to see what's there. In order to assist the weary Referee, I've provided the following Red Zone Reason table to help provide playable explanations for this particular status code. As always, your Traveller Universe may be different from mine regarding certain underlying assumptions. If you come across an entry that doesn't seem to fit your needs, please feel free to change it for your own personal setting development.

Table: Red Zone Reason
d66Red Zone Reason
11Astrogation Hazard
12Automated Defenses
13Cultural Study
14Dangerous Parasites
15Displaced Species
16Electronics Disruption
21Extreme Gravity
22High Radiation
23Infectious Cannibals
24Jumpspace Rupture
25Life-Hating AI
26Local War
31Man-Eating Monsters
32Military Stronghold
33Naval Shipyards
34Political Prisoners
35Power-Draining Predators
36Primitive Species Preservation
41Progenitor Site
42Psionic Wildlife
43Psionics Institute
44Ravenous Pests
45Religious Fanaticism
46Research Station
51Secret Project
52Sovereign Estates
53Space Creatures
54Terraforming Failure
55Trade Embargo
56Treaty Clause
61Unexploited Reserves
62Virulent Pandemic
63Weapon Testing
64Wildlife Preserve
65Xenophobic Elder Race
66Referee's Choice (Something Unusual)

Wow! That took longer to put together than I thought. I hope it helps, though. I know I'll be using it in future posts here, as well as for my Traveller campaigns in general.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: Red Zones, An Overview...

Good Afternoon, Fellow Travellers:

In most Traveller Universes, dangerous worlds are denoted by either an Amber Zone status or a Red Zone status. Per the core rulebook, any world with an Atmosphere code of A+; a Government code of 0, 7 or 10; or a Law Level code of either 0 or 9+ should be considered for Amber Zone status, whereas Red Zone worlds are given out at the discretion of the Referee. Today, I'm going to take a few minutes to chat about my thoughts on Red Zones.

Per the core rulebook, a Red Zone is defined thus (quoted under Fair Use):

"Red Zone
The Travellers’ Aid Society travel zone classification for a nation, world, or system which is dangerous to travellers. In general, the imposition of a red zone classification indicates the location is quarantined, interdicted by higher authority, or at war. Quarantine indicates that a dangerous disease is present, and the danger of war is self-explanatory, but interdiction requires further discussion. Interstellar governments often find it necessary to restrict access to worlds or systems for political or military reasons, and do so by publishing interdictions. Enforcement of interdiction varies with the reason for the restriction. Interdiction may be imposed on a world if it is a military base or other sensitive installation, for the private reservations belonging to powerful families desiring seclusion, for developing societies which the government has elected to allow to evolve in isolation, or for valuable resource areas being saved for later development or exploitation."

I feel that any world with a population and a Class X Starport is an Interdicted World, and so I will assign it a Red Zone status. Class E Starports are basically little more than a flat piece of ground, which can be accomplished with any pasture, parking lot or other reasonably flat planetary surface. In my opinion, every world can qualify for at least a Class E Starport, so Class X Starports reflect worlds where visitors are not welcome at all. That, to me, makes it a Red Zone, especially when there's a local population. (This is only my opinion, by the way, and may or may not reflect the opinion of others. I'm okay with that. We're talking about my Traveller Universe and its underlying assumptions, after all.)

I also feel that extremely high Law Levels make a world very dangerous for visitors. At Law Level 12+, the risk to personal freedom is so great that characters should really think twice before going there, because they may never return if they suffer a run-in with the local law enforcement. After all, when a world would be classified as Extreme Law under MegaTraveller rules back in the day, it's the kind of place that tourists get thrown in prison for years for nothing more than looking at someone funny. This, too, is worthy of being called a Red Zone. Fortunately, there are no Extreme Law worlds in Beta Quadrant, but several exist in other quadrants of Segin sector.

Traveling to a Red Zone is easy. Just plot a Jump for that system and hope your Astrogator did his job correctly today. Things only get difficult on your arrival into a Red Zone system. Remember, Red Zones aren't just travel advisories. These systems are under active interdiction or quarantine by some force, one which is able to support the interstellar recognition of that status. Therefore, the aggressive enforcement of that policy is something that should be expected. (The only possible exception I can think of is that of an astrogation hazard, such as an intermittent pulsar or an abandoned interplanetary mine field, in which case one could assume that only radio buoys exist in the system to broadcast the reason it is considered a Red Zone.) I believe that in an average Traveller Universe, an Interdicted or Quarantined system (i.e. Red Zone) generally has the following features as a result of aggressive enforcement:

  • The major planetary bodies useful for refueling (ice worlds, water worlds, and gas giants, for example) are all monitored by a network of satellites, which record transponder signals of ships coming and going from these planetary bodies, issue warnings about the nature of the Red Zone, and potentially direct defense systems, as needed. The destruction of any satellite in the network is noted, investigated and potentially dealt with.
  • Defense systems, including missile sites, "killer satellites" and drone fighters, provide immediate support for the satellite network, and information gathered over the course of any confrontation is radioed to a more centralized location in the system.
  • A squadron of cruisers or possibly larger war vessels patrol the system, based from a centralized location near the subject of Interdiction or Quarantine.
  • The cruisers are often augmented and reinforced by system defense boats.
  • Jump torpedoes (or, if your Traveller Universe doesn't use them, specialized couriers) report regularly with the nearest Naval base of the enforcing authority. If reports are late, more warships are sent to the system to investigate.

These systems are not infallible, but should make things very difficult for star-farers up to no good. Using a false transponder might help somewhat, at least in misplacing the blame later, while jamming signals or disabling a ship's transponder merely removes a source of information for the authorities to pursue later. Jumping into a system with enough fuel to jump out without refueling will save a ship from confronting the authorities while trying to fill up the tanks. Having a man on the inside could help open holes in the defensive arrays, offering windows of opportunity to enter and exit the system stealthily. Sadly, the likely target of any intentional travel into a Red Zone is generally the one that is the most patrolled. While it is possible to Jump from within the 100-diameter limit of a planetary body, normal Traveller rules indicate that you can't jump INTO the 100-diameter limit of a planetary body, so going in is always harder than leaving. And even if you are successful, word will likely get out soon. This is why ne'er-do-wells (like the player-characters) are generally coerced, paid or lured into making such runs for other, more powerful parties. After all, who would pursue the third party when the authorities have the PCs to chase down for disobeying the Red Zone status of a given system?

And now that I've covered some of my basic thoughts on Red Zones, I think I'll include a new random chart in the next post, which provides reasons for the existence of a Red Zone.

With Regards,

Monday, December 03, 2012

Traveller Sandbox: Sample Resource World Write-Ups...

Good Afternoon, All:

Before moving on to Exploration Sites, I wanted to wrap up the Resource World section with write-ups from our selection of example worlds. Each example is fleshed out in the form of Library Data entries on the three worlds in question. Note that the write-ups are written with a few specific goals: maximize the potential for flavor and adventure, yet remain concise so as to avoid overloading the reader with extraneous details.

Note: I made a quick check of the worlds in Segin sector, and found only two that returned results of being a homeworld to an alien species. One of these is Amaterasu (Segin 3110 B688735-A), which is located in Beta Quadrant. The other, for the idly curious, is Baduhenna (Segin 2322 C867AB9-9), located in the Heremod Unity of Delta Quadrant.

Jizo (Segin 2901 A7978AA-A Amber Zone): Settled by a radical group of Apocalyptic social scientists, Jizo has grown significantly in the centuries following its settlement. Based on meticulous calculations and hyperextensive socio-political analysis, the Jizo colonists believed that the galaxy would collapse into chaos and warfare in the "near future". In the face of that fear, the people of Jizo established the Ksitigarbha Institute. Ever since its founding, the Institute's sole mission has been to preserve the technical and historical knowledge that mankind had accumulated, so that it would not be lost in the predicted interstellar apocalypse. Although the cataclysmic event has yet to come to pass, the Ksitigarbha Institute is now the greatest repository of knowledge and information in Beta Quadrant. The Thulians, a scholarly alien species from Amaterasu (Segin 3110 B688735-A), have become enamored with the collection of data at the Ksitigarbha Institute, and have practically taken the planet by storm. Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, many well-to-do Thulians make a pilgrimage to Jizo at least once in their lifetimes.

Nyame (Segin 2202 B887797-8): Nyame, of all the systems in the Beta Quadrant, is the only world to produce a naturally occurring anagathic, the Zumbi Plant, which significantly inhibits the aging process if ingested regularly. All efforts to grow the Zumbi Plant outside of its native environment in the equatorial jungles of Nyame have failed. The highest castes of the local social structure consider the Zumbi Plant an exquisite spice in their meals, and the differences in longevity and wealth distribution between disparate social castes has led to a high degree of hatred between them.

Umikeo (Segin 2919 C969776-6): Umikeo is Beta Quadrant's biggest exporter of fissionable materials, which makes it a valuable world to many of the local interstellar polities. Unaligned, the various nations of this planet entertain diplomats from many worlds and polities, all of whom seek a portion of the radioactive exports that Umikeo produces, but no outside agency has been successful in establishing an official presence on the planet. Recently, interstellar journalists have begun to paint a picture of a powerful elite that rules Umikeo in secret, but so far, such allegations have proven to be unfounded.

With these examples complete, we can now move on to Exploration Sites, the "dungeons" or "ruins" of an interstellar Sci-Fi sandbox. But first, I think I'm going to talk a little bit about Red Zones, because there's a good chance that the fun stuff has been designated a Red Zone if it has been discovered.

With Regards,