Friday, June 29, 2012

Just a few more hours ! That's all the time we've got ! (T5 news & link)

 About 41 hours left as of 4:30 pm PDT

1,709  Backers
$239,263 pledged of $24,000 goal
~41hours to go

Honest to god, this is so cool, I must squeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEE!

And, despite the usual three-five bitter online cranks complaining about "how dare it exist" and "I sure hope it crashes and burns" this project represents 1709 other people contradicting the cranks and nerdpundits  about  just how frikkin great traveller still is after all these years (35 of em)..and using money to make the point, as opposed to obsessive passive-agressive gripe posts on traveller forums and personal echo chambers.
So, to the grumpy brigade: TOUGH NOOGIES !

U Fail epic ! SUXXOrZ to B U !

(this explicitly excludes any of you who actually produced your own vision of traveller using the easily available traveller SRD and OGL to at least put your sweat and time where your mouth is as regards traveller's failings)

If you like traveller, and want (must have desire ) the T5 600 pg omnibus , go for the basic $100.00 pledge that gets the book ($75.00 retail, eventually), CD-ROM and various cool swags. Note that if $100 seems unreasonable (as some maintain) consider that the retail price looks to be 75$ when it eventually gets to your FLGS, and most 600 page gaming doorstops cost very similar amounts . How much of a full players handbook, DMG and Monster manual ?  Even for ADD 1 ed ?   MGT costs about 40.00 with less than half the content(this is not a criticism, just an observation).  But, if that doesn't float your grav raft yet, or the money really is tight, how bout just hit a pledge of $1 to make the point if you are happy to see this ?
If you haven't found the link(s) to the site yet, click HERE.
Okay.  Ranting, self-indulgent commercial is over. 
This, BTW is absolutely unsolicited by FFE, Marc Miller or anyone, and is naught but my own dogheaded fanboi opinions.  Don't like em ? post your opinions, and damn the torpedoes -or tell your mom, I'm sure she'll listen. Soy Bomb !

 Back to actual content next post.  Thanks for your toleration  .

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Down on the (industrial) Farm; or company town and Latafundi, all in one !

For the new hellhole, I present another Bizarre UWP: a High tech, industrial high population Poor World......
Nevis B6339DC-C
Originally a hardscrabble colonial outpost, half penal colony, half dumping ground for losers and refugees from the collapse of the OLDCULTURE Empire, Nevis entered the long night in great obscurity and remained there until recontacted early in the third Imperium. Minimally habitable, and possessed of no great natural or artificial resources, Nevis shuddered along with only occasional contact and no known raids. Population –originally estimated to be in the 6-7 range was dropping (estimated 5 at recontact), and the local government had become quite repressive in encouraging austerity and survival at all costs.
Ironically, recontact by scout service encouraged the government to bankrupt the remaining resources and economy in attempting to find a local resource to export. And find it they did. A life form native to an inner, less pleasant planet in the system was transplanted to Nevis, in the hopes of developing a new source of protein. Unfortunately, it failed to completely adapt; and while it grew modestly, it was unable to reproduce, and additionally required intensive culturing to survive. All in all it would have been written off as yet another disaster in the colonies miserable history; except that final studies found that one result of decay after the life forms death was capable of easy processing into , locally referred to as Freem. Attempts to process the product on its native planet failed, and it became clear that the final product was a result of the source life form having initial exposure to its home environment, partial adaptation to Nevis’ ecosystem, and the interaction of native & Terran decay organisms following death; Further, the longer the life form was able to survive on Nevis, the greater the yield of Freem.

The local Government petitioned for, and received partial intervention by the scout service, allowing them to control access to the crucial final steps in the process, and to be able to negotiate export conditions from a position of strength; once deals were signed, and bribes finalized, the Government appealed for limited economic contact with its new partners, and the favored megacorps simultaneously turned the screws for access from the other side. *
The subsequent development of the processing industry was to either save the planet or doom it, depending on which side of the fence you lived on.
The need to produce the life forms on their native planet and then gather and safely move them to Nevis for secondary habituation (and eventually processing) pulled in significant off planet capital, and resulted in a boom to Nevis’ previously rudimentary space capacity. Off planet corporations involved in shoved money into the main city, and generously padded the accounts of the local government and the few wealthy native industrialists Rapidly a huge infrastructure was built on Nevis, absolutely dedicated to the management and production of Freem.

Money and technology rapidly became available, and the only remaining bottleneck was population – the husbandry required on Nevis was highly manpower intensive, and absolutely crucial. Accordingly, as time passed and the credits rolled in, the government moved most of the agricultural and industrial population to producing Freem, and simply purchased the needed food and goods from off planet. Additional labor was obtained by the same means that Nevis was originally settled by, as well as the reintroduction locally of the concept of immigration indentures.
Today, the system is a monument (of sorts) to the company town system of industry and a monoculture economy; almost no-one living in the system is uninvolved with the Freem trade, and the vast bulk of the population is little more than subsistence labor, generally hideously indebted to the government. It also should be noted that most of the rank and file suffer from the addictive nature of Freem, and would have significant problems leaving the system.

Thus, life on Nevis can only be said to have improved for the worse; there have been several investigations of reports of outright slavery on the planet, but the government and corporations involved have always been able to just skirt Imperial intervention. There have also been attempts to “export” the source of Freem, but all have failed – as a result, the “customs” patrol in the Nevis system is extremely large, tough and hard-bitten. Similarly, with a huge mass of workers to manage, the police militia is also large, well equipped, and almost entirely composed of off planet advisors. The government is still completely native, but almost all administrative and management positions in the “Nevis General Freem Corporation” (NGFC) are off world employees of the guest megacorps. The government has not changed except thru death or petty internal intrigues**, and is still highly controlling and repressive, and completely self-perpetuating. Indeed, the governing class is essentially hereditary, and, for all intents and purposes, a ruling caste.

* It should be noted that the “Freem Scandal” as the wholesale manipulation of the ISS contact regulations came to be known, did result in a complete revision of contact and interdiction procedures, as well as not a few retirements in the Scout Administration.

**for instance, the vice minister of economic development being fired and his responsibilities divided up between the Ag department and the department of trade; not exactly a tanks-in-the-town-square type of coup.


In the case of Nevis, the opportunity for mildly sociopathic adventurers should abound. Being hired as security team for NGFC can be lucrative for a game emphasizing mercenary contracts, either as cadre or basic security; or, for really mean GMs, as boots on the ground anti-insurgent forces; or hunting down illicit smuggler run farms (think pot farms in Mendicino in the 1980’s.

The system patrols are also an interesting source of employment – if the players have a ship with more than average weapons and/or sensors or engines (gee. Players with an upgunned hotrod. What are the odds of that ?) they can become part of the anti-piracy and smuggling patrols; again, to throw a bit of Moral quandary, perhaps the smuggler is not trying to get cut rate Freem products, but rather to get people off the planet.

Other possibilities are obvious also: they are the smugglers of pirates, or, perhaps, a Merc Cadre down on its luck that is hired by the insurgents to give them a chance; of just a rescue operation for off planet family who has lost people to the plantations.

Run a harmless mission to the capital as a courier; be contacted by anoff-planet executive who is looking for his son, who may or may not have broken a local law, or is reported as “captured or killed by insurgents”; and yet, there is a note that claims to be from him smuggled out of a plantation where he is enslaved……or is it a false flag action to wreck the executives career ?

Finally, consider that a mildly benevolent empire may well be looking for proof of servitude or other abuses, particularly by off-planet interests…….

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Traveller worlds again: an enigma wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a woogy story.

Ashigillii -4 (aka Croatoan )
E766000-0 -RSc

Ashigillii -4 is a potential gem for colonization: A standard atmosphere, ample Hydrosphere and slightly lower gravity all make it a classic and ideal garden world. Well situated in the primary star's habitable zone, its overall temperature is essentially earth normal; a minimal axial tilt and orbital eccentricity makes the planet;s seasons mild, varying from mildly cool to temperate across most of the globe. The local biosphere is at least 45% compatible with Terran metabolism, and numerous transplant species are found; very little of the non-compatible biosphere is toxic, but is simply non-metabolizable

The biosphere is well developed on both land and sea, and is reasonably diverse. No sentient life or sign of sentient life has been found

The system contains no belts, but two gas giants for refueling.

It is also completely empty of human life. Every colony placed on it has failed.
Early History

Available records and evidence suggests that Ashigillii was initially settled in the pre first imperial expansion phase, and possibly a second time in the early consolidation wars period by Vilani fleeing the New Empire. Regardless, when contacted by the first Imperium, it was found to be uninhabited, and enters the eternal Vilani archives as we know it today. Initial scouting reports suggest that the most recent colony had flourished for perhaps 20 years, but was been abandoned as the Imperium caught up with the settlers; however, no further colony has been conclusively traced to a migration from Ashigillii. Additionally, Archeological evidence suggested a previous colonization of the planet had occurred at least 100 years prior to the arrival of the refugees.
At this point, the world was left fallow as a potential site for later expansion, its records filed away, and the scouting teams moved on.

At some point immediately prior to the interstellar wars period, the planet was opened up for colonization by the first Imperium; the subsequent collapse of the first Imperium interrupted the effort, and the colony was isolated from contact with the remains of the Vilani Imperium. When contacted again by the Terran scout service, it was found to be uninhabited, and it was assumed that with the disruption of the colonizing effort, the population had been evacuated, and while no record of such was ever found, the final records of the Villani Imperium are especially fragmentary from this period, and this was simply written off as a failed colony and filed as a potential colony world.
A later attempt at setting up a colony to exploit the world  failed financially within the first year, and the initial colonization and construction teams were all relocated. The world remained fallow throughout the remainder of the second Imperium.

Later History (3rd Imperium)

Ashigillii was recontacted by the IISS of the third Imperium, and was logged as an undiscovered garden world - no significant records of previous colonization were found at that time. Again, Ashigillii was logged and filed, and essentially forgotten for several hundred years.
Eventually, the planet was identified as an ideal colonization venture and further surveyed by private corporations; political and financial wrangling resulted in it being opened to colonization by . The initial construction and settlement went extremely well, and the planet was found to have extensive exploitable resources, especially petrochemicals and rare earths. However, when the colonists and surveyors reported finding signs of previous habitation the parent corporation suppressed the news due to worries about previous claims or IISS intervention. At that point, the colony was on a semi-annual private communications route, approximately 8 parsecs from the nearest xboat link. The colony seemed to be prospering and had a permanent population of approximately 14000 until sometime in post colonization year 15, when all communications stopped.
The Event

The blackout was sudden enough that it was initially assumed that the courier (a private charter) had been lost and several months were wasted until it was confirmed that the courier was not the cause. A corporate investigation of the planet was then begun as soon as was feasible.
Subsequent findings indicated that:

1. The colony was in fact completely empty; there were no physical remains of the colonists; however some feral animals brought by the colonists were found, as were remains of other domesticated animals.

2. There was no sign of evacuation or civil disturbance; some disorder was evident, but it was unclear if it occurred as automated systems gradually failed or as a direct result of whatever happened to the colony.

3. All records were intact up to a period several days before the courier visit previous to the blackout; traffic analysis of that run indicates a sharp drop-off in communications across approximately 24 hours with absolutely no activity except for automated data dumps past that point. This unusual termination of the courier records was close enough to the normal end of file that it was not noticed until well after the fact. Interestingly, no messages were truncated; they simply became shorter, and less frequent.

4. No changes in the ecosystem/biosphere were noted. There were no novel or altered pathogens identified, and the few system capable ships were all cleanly hangared, and in one case prepped and fueled for takeoff.

5. Existing records of on planet communication show a sudden drop-off in communication with outlying areas, essentially co-incidental with the overall silence of the planetary grid.

It must be noted that despite no colonists or remains ever being identified, all investigation teams returned safely, and a semi-permanent research station was set up successfully for 18 months attempting to locate the cause of what was simply referred to as "The Event".

Unfortunately, the corporation’s final response was to cover up the expensive failure, and so, the research station was removed, and vague reports of non-compatible biosphere findings and excessive long term health risks were fabricated and reported to the (overworked) IISS, and the colony was reported closed and evacuated. It is believed that a final set of teams was placed on the planet to clean up the evidence of the event; in fact, the corporate colony was essentially erased.

Current History

Most recently, with the bankruptcy and breakup of the records of the world again became available; unfortunately, what were found were the bogus reports of the long term habitation risks, and the evidence that the colony was evacuated and closed down.
Marked as a low priority by the IISS, the planet was eventually resurveyed and found to be far more habitable than the corporate reports indicated. It was assumed that the reports were cooked by the corporation to keep it secret until it was possible to fully exploit the world. As a result, Ashigillii was again reopened for colonization in , this time by a consortium of small immigrant groups and business interests under IISS aegis.

Initially, the world seemed to prosper, and the locals again located signs of earlier habitation, which resulted in a small archaeological research station being set up on the planet. After 12 years, the colony had a population of perhaps 8000, when, once again, all communications ended. The IISS was able to respond far more quickly that the previous owners, (in part due to the IISS habit of setting up an off planet bases in systems under development). While the investigators were onsite within two weeks of the second event, the findings were essentially the same as from the corporate investigation, with the exception that far more of the imported livestock had survived. There were no signs of disorder, fighting, panic or flight. Records of the actual event do not seem to exist. There was a 24 hour period before blackout during which all monitoring or reporting devices were either shut down, failed, or suffered extensive memory degradation. Despite this, available data does not suggest any unusual power surges or EMP effects. Personal logs and diaries have either been unrecoverable, or have no useful information about the event.
A close examination of the colony indicated that the event may have had some precursor or warning. There were ample examples of vehicles pulled over and shut down, equipment shut off and stowed, etc. The power grids seem to have either been deactivated manually, or to have shut off via failsafe circuits when supervision was unavailable. There are a very few examples of damage attributed to guided vehicles or equipment suddenly losing control.
The planet was immediately red zoned, and placed under high quarantine; an extensive investigation uncovered the actual corporate information on the planet, and clues to its previous history were similarly located. In addition to exisiting record searches of the Villani and Terran periods, the onsite research station had logged evidence of at least two further small settlements during the long night, all failed. One such attempt was clearly by non-human sophonts,; Indeed, it was the investigation of these newly found settlements that had already begun unlocking the planet’s history when the Event reoccurred. Unfortunately, while the research station and its records were intact, the personnel had also vanished. Again the pattern was that of a slowdown of human initiated communication over perhaps 24 hours, followed by a complete cessation. Also, once again, the investigation teams all returned and have shown no ill effects. The planet is currently entirely interdicted by both IISS and Navy elements, and has been listed as highly toxic to human life in standard star data.

Referees notes:
This is pretty much up to you. I have a scenario for it, and if you think I’m going to blab, you’re sadly mistaken !

Some clues  have already been located:

  • As noted above, one colony failed early in its history and was successfully evacuated. Records of this attempt are available , although incomplete and hard to locate. Nonetheless, Villani obsessiveness pays off. The records are millennia old, but can be found.
  • One possibly significant fact found is that the proportion of Terran compatible local biosphere has clearly increased since the initial Villani survey. While unusual, this is not unheard-of, often the result of a poorly conducted initial survey being later updated.
  • A final oddity is that there are no human or remains found in any of the settlements: even recorded deaths and burials will be found to be missing…and no, not freshly opened graves, clawed open from inside, either…just empty caskets. Cremated remains have, however, been identified.

 Enjoy !  Theories welcomed !

Monday, June 11, 2012

Another traveller hellhole: as primitive as can be.

Castaway E201789-7 G, A No bases

Perhaps one of the most isolated colonies ever founded by mankind, Castaway is aptly named, and was founded entirely by accident.

Castaway seems to be the result of a disastrously failed generation-style colonization effort. The colony, only recently located by the scout service, is on, or rather within, the sole iceball moon of a rogue gas giant/brown dwarf at least x parsecs from the nearest actual star system.

The moon is essentially a mico-Europa, with a large internal liquid water layer sustained by internal heat generated by the massive tidal forces generated by its companion. The main habitations are anchored to the bottom of the external ice layer, which is several kilometers thick. The actual surface is hard vacuum at near absolute zero. The water/ice zone covers a roughly circular area approximately 10% of the surface of the planet, and is likely the result of an early impact/meld with an ice body, possibly during planetary formation.

Little is known of the circumstances surrounding the no doubt desperate situation that necessitated the colonization of Castaway. It is clear that access to the liquid zone was obtained by impacting the asteroid based colony ship into the ice surface, hopefully after it was stripped and evacuated. Several beacons and at least one decommissioned shuttle have been found in orbits around both the primary, and Castaway, apparently in an attempt to mark their presence, as once the ice layer reformed no contact with the moon's surface was possible.

The surviving technology has been maintained at approximately TL 7, barely sufficient to support and maintain life in a subaquatic, low temperature microgravity environment.

Most technological equipment is adapted and recycled colony equipment; almost no new production is possible due to both the environment and the resource-poor nature of the moon; nonetheless, the original colonists, who seem to have been a fraction of the original colonists and crew, did have access to a large store of prefabricated and varied high tech colonizing equipment.

Almost all other resources available are scavenged from the wreckage of the original colony ship, and the asteroid hull. A few fusion plants are still active, along with a makeshift geothermal technology to provide heat and power to the habitations. Food is entirely based on either thermal based plant forms apparently introduced by the colonists, or vat grown protein and plants.

The habitations tend to be as self-sufficient and dispersed as much as possible, but an extensive communication system and submersible transport has maintained a mostly cohesive society, likely a testament to the constant struggle to survive.

The colonists have not lost memory of their origins, nor of the outside universe; however, it appears that the impetus for the initial colonization effort was to create a hidden haven for the human race, an ethos which is still strongly in existence. Accordingly, the society is extremely exophobic and opposed to any external contact. They essentially believe that they are the last true humans in the universe, and that an unspecified "evil empire" (physically resembling humans) has eliminated earth and all other colonies.

The colony as a whole is a loosely federated Polis, with full citizen participation in important decisions; otherwise, most of the habitations are governed by a changing board of expert technologists and biologists, who are quite ruthlessly and unforgivingly tested for competence and fired for failure.

The central goal in the society is survival and efficiency, and as a result individuals are very strictly tracked and monitored by the central committees, and each other, and observation is almost ubiquitous. This has become so ingrained in the population that the concept of privacy is almost non-existent; rather, the concept of "oversight" is taken as a basic human need. This observation is seldom if ever used for political or social manipulation goals; indeed such use of "oversight" is strictly taboo. Rather it is used to safeguard individuals in a very dangerous and unforgiving environment, and to allow constant refinement of working techniques. Indeed, given the strong social restrictions on oversight as a method of supervision or control, most inhabitants are acutely uncomfortable in its absence, and are highly agoraphobic when alone.

Population levels are strictly limited and limited to replacement. Life expectancy is low, and the population is as a whole fairly young. Education and training are universal, and begun at a very early age. Most individuals will be working for most of their waking hours, for most of their life.

Resources and property, as well as all production is entirely held in common, and strictly rationed and distributed on a strictly per capita basis; material goods or access to same is not used as a reward or benefit. Private ownership is limited to clothes, and, oddly, musical instruments and religious items.

Waste of resources or failure to recycle is considered a major criminal and moral offense. Interestingly, human life is also considered a scarce and perhaps the most vital resource (after power ) needed to preserve the colony (and thus the human race). Even the worst of crimes have no death sentence; however, the societies concept and implementation of "forensic resource recovery" would give even hardened criminals pause before offending.

Finally, it must be noted that the population has diverged significantly from the original human population, primarily due to adaptation to a constant microgravity environment. It is unclear if the colonists are aware of this divergence, and if so, what part it plays in their hermit/survivalist ethos.

The initial effect is that it is impossible for a baseline human to infiltrate their society.

Interestingly, all information suggests that the colonists are unaware of the orbital beacons which attracted the initial survey expedition; it is possible that this is the remnant of early, perhaps initial, schism in the colonist society.

The classification as an E starport is due to the scout presence on the surface. A semi permanent post has been created, as they anticipate a long, long period of study before contact, if it is ever deemed to be necessary.

Adventure hooks.

One obvious possibility is trying to make contact with the society. This would be a major challenge for a group –one that would have to be comfortable with a very “talky-thinky” campaign.

Another would be running the initial discovery by the scouts; note that in this case, the planet should still retain a type E port – insofar as the scouts quickly discover that someone has been here before, and plans to come back. Who ? Why ? well, seems that One habitation has broken the ultimate taboo; when a private ship had to enter the system, they found the colony and made contact with one of the habitations –the rulers of which are trading local resources for luxuries for the upper few. Obviously this is depleting the resource loop of the colony, and will likely cause its collapse if the mayor of habzone 8 doesn’t stop trading trace elements and compounds for really tasty food bars.

A less official scenario would be the players being hired to either find the colony by an undisclosed private company; the kicker is that when the colony ship set off, it was funded by the inventor and of a unique and very efficient fusion power plant (who was also owner of the start-up to exploit it) – a design which was never produced, an as she left with the colony ship and all known prototypes. The remains of the start up company were left behind, and actual ownership of the process has been passed from corporation to corporation, and been the focus of several unsuccessful attempts to replicate it, as it still has several unique advantages over current designs (GM: make up your own, could be as as simple as an extremely low production cost, could be as revolutionary as room temperature fusion). While it was supposed that the design and prototypes were lost with the ship, and have never been rediscovered, the patron has evidence that someone is trying to reverse engineer one of the exact designs of the originals with the goal of putting it on the market as their own invention. So, the mission is to find out where the unit came from. Turns out, the prototypes are the fusion units running the habitations –one of which recently vanished, condemning the local population to a rapid, icy, death.

Extra twisty bits (for those who need them) would be that the holding corporation is mostly interested in suppressing the design, as they really don’t hold ownership of it after all this time; a cheap, public domain design would cost Imperial Gizmotronics a serious hit in their profits . For further twistiness, make the reverse engineers are a subgroup of the same company with different goals; see, the patrons cannot kill the project, and its success may well put them out of a job; or at least supplant them. So, barring blowing their own lab (not really an option) they can either cut off the source of prototypes, or uncover the fact that it isn’t an invention of the rival department, or even that they killed a whole habitation to get it; thus possibly doing the right thing, for the basest of reasons.

Alternately, the reverse engineers might be agents of the inhabitants (only the highest levels know about this contact, see above as regards taboos) attempting to raise funds for the colony to be either improved or relocated, like say, to somewhere that isn’t the inner circles of hell. So, now we have the “big oil suppressing the water powered car” scenario.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Traveller world again: Truckstop of adventure plus adventure hook !

Another one from my campaign....

This would have been reduced to a pop zero rockball by the standard rules for tech and habitability if it/I was rules pure.  However, the vagueness of what exactly a tech level means (local production ?  Maintenance ? Local innovation ?  Best available ? Average?) is something I've always seen as a feature, particularly if one wants to have a universe full of the same old sameold.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

Truckstop of Adventure !!!

Ta's Rock D100120-6

An airless rockball in the outer system,Ta's Rock is a secondary link in a low traffic secondary route into Subsector from .

The Ta system's star is a smallish M2 Star of great age, possibly of the original galactic population. The system is dominated by an extremely large inner orbit gas giant ("Gigi")with an extensive debris belt. Ta itself is likely a rogue planetoid captured semi recently. No other planets exist
Ta itself has no water deposits, and the Oort cloud of is exceedingly sparse due to the great age of the system and the effects of the Gas Giant. Accordingly, the main source of fuel for the station is from scooping the Gas Giant.
Ta was originally colonized by a start up freight and transport corporation as a rest/refueling stop, but only the basic installation was completed when the company collapsed in bankruptcy, fraud and embezzlement. The rough and ready nature of the frontier judiciary resulted in the station being awarded to the inhabitants in lieu of back salary and contract payment. Those who decided to stay bought out those who wanted out, and incorporated as a joint ownership company.
The main resource of the station is a set of five modular cutters with fuel scooping modules and high thrust engines. Two are inoperable and currently being stripped for parts. The three remaining cutters make regular runs to GiGi to scoop fuel. The stations survival is due to the extremely dangerous nature of skimming operations off Gigi. The debris belt is massive and uncharted, and Gigi itself is a borderline brown dwarf requiring high thrust to escape and special protection for the crew. Few merchants entering the system are willing to make the extremely hazardous attempt, when the locals will do it for them for a very reasonable fee.
Population is approximately 50-90 persons mostly composed of six or seven families and some transient workers. Provides Fuel, Bar, Brothel and Bijou.
As noted, the locals sell fuel, but currently only unrefined fuel is available as their latest makeshift refinery has failed. Originally the station was supported by a dedicated (if small) refinery, that has long since broken down beyond repair It was then replaced by a junked small freighter with fuel processing modules. This, too has since broken down. Ships with a processor will be offered a good discount price on unprocessed fuel, if the ship will process an equal amount for the station.
It must be noted that the locals have lost at least two fuel skimmers to the operations off Gigi, and one of the disabled cutters is entirely due to a barely survived collision with what may have been a large lifeform in the upper atmosphere of Gigi. The locals will not provide pilots or up to date chart info on Gigi (likely useless in any case due to the complexity of the system) but have no objection whatsoever to outsiders attempting to skim the giant planet; it provides them with much needed entertainment when successful, and a source of much needed salvage when not.

The tech level reflects the effective level of maintenance possible on Ta. As noted, almost no support infrastructure was built before the original corporations bust, and the owners have little capital to bring it in. As a result, almost everything is imported, with very limited local technology or production beyond spacecraft service, recreation and habitability. Vacuum survival and food supplies can be maintained and even expanded , but little else not directly related to habitability. However, the inhabitants are no more than one or two generations removed from the original founding, and most are able to operate much higher tech equipment than can be maintained.
All permanents inhabitants are part owners of the station, and by default, the system. With the exception of semi-retired elderly family members, and one or two colorful retired travellers, all inhabitants are directly employed in servicing passing ships in one way or another, or in maintaining and feeding the station.

There is a small group of transients and drifters hired to fill some job unfillable or unsuitable for the locals; occasionally they will buy in and stay, but generally make their passage off, and leave. The economy is well described as being one of subsistence service.
Check out Trader Jim’s mobile Bar and Grill, but avoid the Vilanii frijoles.

Be nice to Sal, she'll be nice to you.

Adventure Hook:

During the last  war with the ENEMYPOLITY towards the end, a commerce raider (destroyer size, M6 J3) infiltrating deep behind imperial lines raided a research station investigating an ANCIENTFALLEN archaeological site, initially to resupply at an out of the way location, as it was mainly of academic interest.  What happened next suggested that it was anything but a boring academic dig.  When the raider left, it slagged the site, and apparently captured the archeology team, as no traces of survivors or remains were found.  The raider then apparently abandoned its mission, and fled at maximum speed for ENEMYPOLITY space.  Local planetdef pickets detected and engaged the raider as it entered SYSTEM, and while they were able to identify it, they were unable to stop its departure.  Imperial forces were notified.  Next citing of the RAIDERSHIP occurred in SYSTEM, again by local forces: in this case, the raider was closely followed by several Imperial ships of cruiser class an up, who immediately signalled an all ship mobilization to intercept the Raider; this included several Battleship & Battletender class ships.  Again unable to do more than track the Raiders exit, it should be noted that the entire imperial force was ordered to jump out in pursuit (leaving the system undefended), and the x-boat system was preempted to send an all systems alert ahead of the raider .  The further records are somewhat fragmentary as no Imperial report or acknolegement of the events exists, and much local data has been cleaned. Nonetheless, it is clear that the raider continued fleeing, utilizing (and revealing) ENEMYPOLITY supply caches throughout the sector -and indeed, marooning at least two other raiders which later showed up expecting to find supplies. At some point, a fast squadron of imperial ships did manage to intercept and damage the raider as it attempted jump -which apparently caused a misjump to occur.  This last factoid is gleaned from a comet miner who happened to be in sensor range of the raiders last battle.  The flight of the raider  was with obvious disregard for consequences (it frequently was seen to maneuver at the very edge of the safe combat limits of the class of ships, and was clearly being damaged by such) .  Combined with the massive imperial response, it is clear that they found somthing that seemed of extreme importance, vital enough to blow a raider network throught the subsector.

The adventure is to find it, a classic myth across the local area, and source of innumerable scams since then. However, in this case, the adventurers have access to new data -the sensor logs of the miner who was onsite at the raider's misjump which can be mined for an approximate vector, and evidence at Ta's rock that something entered the system one jump week later, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to refuel at GiGi.
Perhaps one of the old retired codgers at Ta is the miner ?  Or his son ? or just a deluded seeker ?  Perhaps its the final stop on a search of possible misjump exits based on the data from the sensors.

Regardless, the stage is set for an expedition to GiGi, especially when the players detect a faint ENEMYPOLITY distress beacon out of the electronic hash around the planet.......

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Since I'm writing about Traveller.....T5 at kickstarter !

Check it out !  Now !  I so command it !

600 pages of Traveller crunch.  Wow. The final version & vision of Traveller  by Marc Miller with help from the playtest minons (including me) at COTI.  A huge games toolkit for running traveller or any space opera/ golden age or niven-anderson-heinlein SF at any level of detail or generation. 

Update: funded in 24 hours & still going. Compared to about a dozen complaners on various forums (many being same old voices saying the same old things in their own echo chambers), around 400 backers suggest that theres considerable life and interest in the old girl, yet !  HAH! That to you grumpy brigade !

Friday, June 1, 2012

Deadends and Hellholes of the Traveller universe

Back when I was way more active on forums, I got involved in the Mogoose Traveller Playtest.  Part of which involved me rolling up a BUNCH of worlds (100K ) to look for anomalies and outliers generated by the process.  Long story short, I was left with quite a few planets with wildly odd stats - and as I was trying to make the point that creativity is a function of what you put into it, I started posting interpretations of the UWP -a bland string of letters and numbers, to make the point that traveller Plangen wasn't an unsupervised planet generator, but rather a generator of a minimum amount of info to hand a more elaborate story on.   

So, I've decided to post a bunch of those here, to get back into the whole pro-traveller mindset, to get them to a wider audience (safe from the No Fun Allowed lobby that seems to spring up on any forum) and generally to make it easy for me to get me into the habit of posting again -the lazy way.

First up:

Occulus:  X723571-2

This is a world that has already been inflicted on my scout campaign. This is the classic post catastrophe survey planet, with several distinct mysteries: what actually caused the disaster, what made the survivors decide to attempt to return, and the biggie, the fact that the increasing taint and decreasing fertility almost guarantee that this is the last generation of inhabitants. Related to this is the cause of the fertility decrease, and some unexpected historical findings about the original base on the moon.

I must note that this is a UWP that would be either zeroed out or elevated due to the problems with the low tech and the atmosphere; instead, I decided to see if it could be made plausible, if not realistic, as a medium-term challenge for a scout crew.

This one does play fast and loose with the way an atmosphere would work in this situation- and the recovery of the planet post impact (ie cooling off). is highly atypical. As regards the atmosphere, it's a cheat. As regards the catastrophe....let’s just say that it is a big clue that what happened wasn't necessarily your standard everyday asteroid impact.....another clue (if noticed) is the atypical formation of the crater -no central peak, which is very unusual, especially when this recent. Although it must be noted that there are very few other examples on this scale to draw conclusions from.

Oculus is currently named for its appearance from Space. A barren greyish rockball, the planet’s sole habitable area is a massive impact crater with a denser atmosphere allowing mostly circular weather patterns to form, giving it the appearance of an immense eyeball. Unofficially it is known as “Bullseye”. There are a wide variety of local names for the planet, although, interestingly, none of them translate as “home”, for reasons which may become made apparent when the planets history is considered.

The last known records of the planet are from approx -1779, just prior to the collapse of the second empire and indicate that its original name was Famideii. At that time, the planet was petitioning the remains of the central government for aid and succor; they reported that the planet was in severe economic and technological distress, and may have been involved in a local conflict with neighboring star systems. There is no evidence that the petition was acted on, or indeed, ever seriously considered.

The area was superficially surveyed and annexed, approximately 215 years prior to the present, and while the project was terminated (and never restarted) by the , the history of the planet since last contact was partially pieced together.

Best estimates are that the planet fared as did many smaller and isolated settlements in this area : poorly. However, an essentially habitable environment kept the colony from dying out, and apparently enough of original technology and/or knowledge was available to enable recovery to begin once the crisis years had passed. By at least 900 years previous to the present, well before recontact, Oculus seems to have been an excellent example of an abandoned colony well on the road to recovery. The original physical UWP of Oculus is estimated to have been C756. Population code is estimated to have been in the 7 - 9 range, with a local tech level of 7-8; government type and Law level are unknown, but it is likely that the society may have been either Balkanized or Oligarchic, due to the later history. It is known that the society had a fairly extensive orbital presense, as well as semi-permanent bases on its moon, and at least one of the inner planets. (Vacuum rockballs –Luna & mercury type)

Unfortunately, at this point, the planet suffered a massive catastrophic event; most evidence suggests that the planet was struck by a massive long orbit comet or asteroid. The surface of the planet was devastated and rendered uninhabitable; at least 90% of the planet’s atmosphere was lost, and likely a similar amount of the water. The resultant impact crater is approximately 15% of the surface area of the planet; it is clear that the planet came very close to complete fragmentation.

It is unclear if the civilization had any warning of the event, but even if so, it would have had limited capacity to respond. It appears that a major project to construct self supporting settlements on the inner planet and the moon were in progress when the impact occurred, and may have been prompted by the approaching event, possibly carried out by a subset of the planetary polities (if balkanized), or a ruling elite (if oligarchic). It is likely that the orbital presence was destroyed or crippled by the secondary effects of the event, and the local moon base also damaged to a lesser extent.

Post disaster, it appears that the extraplanetary surviving population (perhaps population 3-4) attempted to consolidate into one of the two off planet bases, and managed to struggle to survive for several hundred years.

At some point, at least 500 years before the present day, the survivors decided to attempt to recolonize the Mainworld. It is suspected that the attempt to maintain a civilization in the face of the challenges of a low grav and zero atmosphere planet proved insoluble or finally collapsed. It is likely that the return to the home planet was a last ditch attempt to survive a massive system collapse and die off. Currently, the extraplanetary bases are completely abandoned, and have been extensively stripped of all useful goods.

At this point, some semblance of habitation was possible on the remains of the homeworld. The remaining atmosphere had partially largely settled into the impact crater, giving a barely breathable thin atmosphere on the floor, and below that, a series of deep canyons formed as the lava flows of the crater floor cooled gave a denser if tainted (volcanic outgassing) atmosphere.

Genomic data suggest that no more than 2000 related individuals returned to the planet. The current ecosystem is entirely artificial, and likely only survives due to intense husbandry. As perhaps six species of non-human domestic animals are known to exist, as well as a wide variety of domesticated food plants, it is surmised that the surviving extraplanetary population had access to stored ova, or cloneable resources; this is the clearest evidence that some subgroup of the original inhabitants may have had warning of the impending disaster. On the planet nothing more complicated than lichen and bacteria survived the calamity.

The returning survivors have managed to survive, although with a severely regressed society and in a very precarious situation. The colonists seem to have dispersed into two cultural groups, nomadic tech 1 dwellers on the floor of the crater, and more numerous and somewhat more advanced tech 2-3 city dwellers in the deep canyons. The nomadic population is estimated at pop 4, and the city dwellers at pop 5.

The planet is still wracked by frequent quakes and volcanic activity, as well as a greatly elevated rates of meteoric impacts resulting from the debris thrown off planet by the initial impact. Further, as a result of the continuing volcanic activity, is possible that the low atmosphere taint will increase to a point where survival in the canyons is impossible.

Contact with the inhabitants has been limited as the population has only recently been identified.

Both floor and canyon cultures are extremely insular and balkanized, the nomads by tribe, and the canyon dwellers by city and village. The canyon dwellings are essentially pueblo style settlements, seldom with more than 1000 inhabitants. No central or unifying polity has arisen, likely due to the lack of surplus resources and the constant struggle to maintain agriculture. Culturally, the inability of the local infrastructure to support a leisured or professional class has led to most of the canyon dwellings to develop an essentially unstratified society, although there are exceptions.

The inhabitants suffer from a variety of environmental problems, including UV exposure, lung damage, and decreased fertility. Starvation and famine are common in the canyons, and the extremely hard life of the crater floor above has led to more than one tribal group to simply die out. For both groups, but especially the canyon dwellers, survival requires an immense amount of cooperative effort, particularly with regard to agriculture, which produces almost no surplus. Wars are infrequent due to the desperate emphasis on agriculture and food gathering, but raiding, particularly between the floor and the canyon dwellers, is frequent.

Currently, the world is not interdicted, but contact is discouraged, while a debate rages in the Imperial administration about the best way to deal with the situation: evacuation, technological uplift, or cultural quarantine.