Thursday, July 26, 2012

More Classic Traveller Variants and Space Cantons News

The tinkering with Classic Traveller continues, I can't help it, I tell ya. Much like the D&D edition 0.75 that I always wanted (a mechanically-slimmed down AD&D or beefed up OD&D depending on your perspective) I find myself wishing that there was a nice happy space between the elegance (yet gaping holes) of Classic Traveller and the bloated detail (forget the mechanics) of Megatraveller.

Actually I really find myself wishing for a simple, old-schoolish game that is softer in its science and weirder in its tone, but that's for another post. In the meantime here are some variant tweaks and some Space Cantons campaign news for some local color.

Alternate Starting Chargen Skills
Player characters can opt to make new choices to what you get upon enlistment or promotion in a service (existing Space Cantons players can opt to retro-fit any skill choices). All skills listed trump existing rules in Book 1. New or tweaked skills are listed in italics.

On Enlistment:
Army, Autorifle-1 or Combat Rifleman-0
Marines, Chain-Cutlass-1 or Combat Rifleman-0
Merchants and Other, Streetwise-0
Navy, Vacc Suit-1
Scouts, Pilot-1 or Survival-1
Scientist (from Citizens of the Imperium), Hard Science-1 or Soft Science-1 or Comp-1 AND one Science at 0.

On Commission/Promotion:
Army Lieutenants receive Snub-Pistol-1 or Pistols-0
Marine Lieutenants receive Snub-Pistol-1 or Bolt-Pistol-1
Merchant First Officer, Pilot-1 or Navigation-1
Navy Captain, +1 SOC or Vibro-Foil-1

The Cantonment Holo-stem Report from Raving Foxoid News
Deputies of His Most Resplendent and Indomitable Overlord Vunce Augustus are vigorously denying that there was a massive explosion that rocked the Novo Marlankh Prime Spaceport yesterday. “We are most certainly not investigating baseless rumors that the fuel compartment of Astro-Hermetic College star-cog combusted on detonation of Cantonment Marine-issue blastex,” they added.

One of two Spacers Guild dromon-traders has returned from a senseless and foolhardy expedition into Weirdspace. The ship was shuttled with great perspicacity into one of the guild's tower-hangars. Ground crews noted what looked to be blast marks on the ship's stern.

Underclerks of Hydracorp's shipping arm are confirming that two metric tons (a cantonal “crapton”) of depleted-uranium, zertax-covered snub pistol rounds were not accounted for in their recent run to Outpost Nine's planetary militia. “We are confident that they will show up...somewhere,” they commented with officious shrugs and sweeping gestures toward the sprawling chaos of their spaceport storage facilities.

What the Cantonment Scout Service has deemed an ACO (Anomaly Class Object, term for the various celestial oddities that appeared through the Veil) has appeared beyond Leguiin, a gas giant in the Kugelworld system. Upon completion of the fortnight-long Subsector Stellar-Surfing Competitions on Novo Marklankh the Scouts vow to “check it out, man.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reminder: South Texas Mini-Con August 18

GuadaComaCon (formerly the South Texas Mini-Con) will take place Saturday, August 18 in New Braunfels.  Some of the featured games include:
  • 5150: Star Navy (sci-fi space combat minis) run by Desert Scribe
  • By This Axe I Rule (homebrew fantasy minis) by me. (Possibly also some old school D&D)
  • Paranoia (humorous dystopian sci-fi role-playing) run by Brad Ncube of Skull Crushing for Great Justice
  • Clay-O-Rama (what it sounds like) run by artist-in-residence Jason Braun
  • 5150: Star Army (sci-fi ground combat minis) run by Ed the THW Guy
  • Cavemaster RPG by Talzheimer
  • Tekumel Bethorm by Jeff Dee
Admission is still free (donations accepted).  Drop me a line at kutalik at gmail dot com for more information.

Post reposted and revised from here.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Anti-Cantonal Eld

No. Enc.: 1d10 (20-200)
Alignment: Lawful (Evil)
Movement: 60’ (20’)
Armor Class: 3-5
Hit Dice: 2-6
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: Weapon
Save: E2-6
Morale: 10

Strange is the name of that ancient race, the Eldur. The tight-lipped followers of the Silent God are said to have coined the word, though its meaning “where a God resides” puzzles savants and sages throughout the Cantons to this day. Perhaps there is truth in the old folk tales of them as pitiless eaters of a long-forgotten deity or perhaps it involves another of that race's arcane cruel jokes.

Hailing from beyond the Veil that hangs between our world and the dark, fell place where life runs on rigid iron rails along great and horrible paths of adventure, the Eldur (often just called the Eld) are said to rule over vast estate piled high with tower-manses, monoliths, slave pens, protein vats and baroque, gargantuan gleaming metal vessel-machines

In this world the few who have witnessed—and survived--their incursions note that their appearance rarely seems by chance they invariably are seen performing strange, determined missions in the furthest corners of the Weird.

What moves their constant machinations inside of machinations little is known, but reports do consistently match up around their physical appearance: pale-whitish skin, long backward sloping skulls, delicate digits; and heights ranging around seven feet. They also favor bright single colors and enameled armor.

The Eld heavily favor long, ultra-slender sabres; short, nastily-barbed stabbing swords; and elaborately-flourished pole arms. Expert craftsmanship gives such weapons +1 to damage. There is a 25% that each group encountered over seven in number, that one of the Eld encountered will carry a piece of eldritch technology such as a Tube of Integument, Mindbox, or Interfogulator (see the upcoming Roustabout's Guide to the Hill Cantons).

All Eld are immune to the effects of sleep, charm, suggestion, and acid-based attacks.

Inspired, in part, by these guys and these and a few others that will remain vaguely mysterious to keep the players guessing. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kezmarok: Questions and Answers

Stealing a page from my blogging friends today I am presenting an open question and answers on Kezmarok, a half-ruined metropolis just south of the Hill Cantons setting proper.  Below are some questions from players on Google Plus (a careful reader will note a certain self-interested cast to them).  Feel free to ask away in comments if you are interested.

The other parts of the series are here, here and here
 Who's who in the Illuminated League and the Banners of the Five?
The Illuminated have several internal factions. The largest are the Realis, a somewhat moderate, fiscally-conservative faction that mostly just wants to downscale the city: raze most of the semi-ruined buildings, wall off the dangerous sectors of the city, downsize the reliance on the mercs of the bonded companies, etc. A number of the Great Hostel owning families and the larger native bazaar merchants support this pole.

The second largest faction of the Illuminated are called the Defeatists by their detractors. They want all of the above and call for a negotiated settlement with the besiegers. They are well backed by Galldred and the some of the foreign merchants plus a few of the local artisan guilds.

Supporting the Banners is roughly half of all native military officers under the Lord-Marshal rank. A small grouping, but with some juice given their strategic position. Their leadership is secretive, but there are some outspoken public leaders like the vainglorious Hulkos the Harried. 

Who is in charge of the city's finances?
It's a complicated procurement/disbursement dance between the Council of Autarchs and the layers of lower bureaucracy. Forms and orders have to be signed and counter-signed for weeks or months. But is known that the Captain-General's Chief Purser can move that expedite or hamper that red-tape process immensely.

Who's in charge of home ownership? As in, where you can live and why and how much you get taxed for it.
About a third of the great abandoned (or semi-inhabited) sections of the city—Kezmarok shrank from its height of 300,000 to its current 40,000—are currently owned by the governing council’s Land Trust. The remaining two-thirds is privately owned by the old impoverished aristocratic families and is essentially in stasis--as is the wont of the private sector across ages when confronted with real, abiding crisis.

Unoccupied buildings (mostly in some state of ruination) can be bought from the trust at full price, but with a (relative) minimum of red-tape and a five-year year rebate on all assessment fees, taxes, and bribes. Currently occupied and maintained buildings are at a premium and you should expect to pay quite a bit more than you would up in the Cantons. 

Squatting is also quite common off the main avenues. The main danger there though comes from the larger squatter bands (who have bribed their way into semi-permanent fiefdoms) and things that go bump in the night. 

Is there an M-U guild?
There is no guild as such and as in the Cantons to the north magic-users are rare and tend to stick to private, unobserved lives. It being a larger, if reduced, city there are at least two known, informal salon-circles (or cabals) of sorcerers, wizards, witches and warlocks. 

An inquiring, discrete soul could put out feelers . One such group tends to congregate around the upper floor of the Finestra hostel, the other Duke Mraz’s Folly.

Do the Turko-Fey have positive relations with any known nation? What would they say about them? What would an average Kezmaroki say about them? What about a soldier? 
The Turko-Fey hail from a pocket plane called on this world “The Summer Country”, a place they share in part with other polities of their race. Even in their home plane are seen as something of a cryptic annoyance.  

In the world of the Hill Cantons they are said to only have passably decent relations with the Scarlet Sultanates of the far South and with the mercenary captains of the Overkingdom. 

To the latter they are considered to be easy if erratic employers. They expect little more than guarding the camps, an annual counter-sally and an occasional abrupt shelling of the outer works of the city. Many returning landsknechts will complain about the strange pay schedule (seemingly random months and years without pay then a generous showering of reddish-gold coins), the cold distant quality of their employers and the dream-like lethargic feeling of the camps. There is a great sense that something is being waited on and that time is a slow, meandering river.  

The average Kezmaroki considers the Turko-Fey to be a cipher, almost like a force of nature. Something unknowable and without much to do about but complain endlessly. The more cocky of soldiers--especially those affiliated with the Banners of the Five--believe that they are a paper tiger.

Who has the best rumors? Who has the most rumors? Who trades information for money, and what are their rates?
Resident foreigners by far and away, native Kezmarokis are almost to a person inward looking with a tendency toward a listless ennui. 

What does the city trade? What's the most unique touristy bullshit thing I could buy for my friends back home? What can't I get anywhere else?
The city has subsided on centuries of essentially trading away its vast, dwindling wealth: tapestries, statues, gold baubles, silks, etc.
The city does produce in gigantic cave-complexes a wide variety of edible fungi. Only two species are exported: one phallic-shaped cap an aphrodisiac, the other a shelf-like mushroom producing a cardamom-like taste. A “floral” bloom of both varieties in a delicate spiral glass vase (another local export) is considered a well-received, if kitschy gift. 

 How are the dead disposed of? How upset would people get if they were eaten, dissected, animated, etc?
There are vast vaults, passages, and catacombs honeycombing the pink-grey granite of the Rock.  There are several entrances to the upper levels where the dead are housed, the most well-known of being through the rear burial complex of the Patriarchate. Most larger temples will have some access and it is known that the fungus beds of the city have side passages into that maze. 

Defiling the dead is considered an abomination in the sight of the Sun Lord. (A quick thrice counter-clockwise swirling of three fingers and a pinky with a flourish.)

What breeds of dog and other domesticates are found in the city?
Dogs are considered unclean and bad luck. 

How good is the library? Am I allowed in? How can I gain access if not?
The Patriarchate and Decade-King’s libraries are among the largest in the world. Access is dependent on the goodwill of those institutions.

How would I be expected to resolve a dispute of property? How about a dispute of honor? An academic dispute?
The most bloody of duels—some of them escalating into small, pitched battles—are to be found in the various ivory towers of the city.  Dueling is common among the gentry.  Preferred weapons are the glaive, bolo and heavy saber. 

All other matters are settled in a ponderous circuit of courts presided by secular magistrates.

What traits and technologies have the Kezmaroki adopted from the Turko-Fey over the years, and vice-versa? 
None on either side other than a shared malaise. 

What are the laws regarding street performance? What about trespassing and window-peeping?
Strangely liberal. Miming however is punishable by impalement.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kezmarok: Factions, Personages, and Local Religions

Being deprived of my weekly game by the craptastic internet connection here at the beach house on the lovely Redneck Riveria (oh first world problems). I have nothing to do but write and design more for the campaign. Here is part three of our Great Tour of Kezmarok. See parts one and two here and here.

Political jockeying and philosophizing (abstract theory always trumping praxis in the city) is a full-time spectator sport for the shabby gentility.

The Great Path of Restoration. This league seeks to restore the absolute power of the city’s traditional ruler, The Golden Evexrator. Wracked with internal disagreements over length of the ruler’s term and method of ritual disfigurement for the deposed. Popular with the shabbiest of the impoverished aristocracy.

Illuminated League of the Refoundation. Local citizens who recognize the deep decline of the city and seek to formally divest the city-state of its (long lost) maritime empire. Shockingly the most radical elements in the league seek a settlement with the Turko-Fey sitting outside the gates.  A small minority if well-organized faction.

Wellsprings of the Crowd. An “astroturf” organization funded and maintained by the Council of Autarchs to bolster their political clout.

Banners of the Five. A small militaristic party popular with native junior officers. This dangerous and crazed radical party seeks to break the five-century military deadlock and defeat the besieging host. The name is a reference to five semi-mythical Kezmaroki hero-generals.

Local Religions
Ultra Orthodox Synod of the Sun Lord. Despite its name and hidebound observation of the oldest, strictest and most absurd ritual practices of the Sun Lord’s supernal temple, a reasonably tolerant sect. Shockingly other faiths are allowed to openly practice their religion in non-hidden places of worship. Apostates are however heavily taxed and required to wear indigo wheel badges.

The Minyaan of the Silent God. Not much is known about the tight-lipped, low-key local practioners of this faith. Their prominent hexagonal fane has no windows and only a single, low sunken door as an entrance.

The Grand Church of Latter-Day Hyperborea. Small, mystical order practicing “neo-Hyperborean” religion. Known to annoy locals with their drum circles, toad and elk-head costumes, and dervish-dancing.

Temple of Svatek the Crocodile Godling. This tiny, somewhat sleepy sectlet worships a local demi-god of vigilance. A number of local worshippers were arrested en masse recently after leading an inexplicable riot in which they rushed around beating outlanders from the Hill Cantons with sticks.

Notable Personages of Kezmarok
The Ur-Patriarch, Ummas the Unctuous. Jaded, bored head of the Ultra Orthodox Synod of the Sun Lord.

The Golden Evexrator, Decade-King of all Lands Kezmaroki on the Rock and Beyond. The head of state--at least nominally. Serves for 10 years before being deposed, blinded (humanely as possible) and boxed on the ears.

Vorish Kohniun, Captain-General of the Great Rock. The functional ruler of Kezmarok. Heads the Council of Autarchs, a beancounting and officious ruling council.

Gabrous Swelter, Chief Gaoler, and Torture-Aesthete, of the Pits Below.

Galldred the Scabrous, Merchant Prince of the Trader’s Ward.

(Colorful characters of Kezmarok and Sites of Interest coming next.)

Kezmarok: the Great Hostels and Games

 The Great Hostels
The sale of intoxicants is strictly—and lucratively--regulated in the city.  The typical constellation of seedy inns, taverns, and other watering holes is simply not seen in Kezmarok (though a few illegal speakeasies stubbornly exist).  Instead you have enormous, teetering centuries-old edifices, the great hostels, sprawling across entire city blocks.

Because half of all the income from  booze, powders, and smokeable herbs is owed to the City, the hostels have spread their commercial range across a range of activities—food, lodging, games, gambling, nefarious meetings, bawdy theater, romantic trysts, etc-- and thus have become central hubs of social life in the city.

Though each varies wildly in its character, each hostel does have a few common features. Each hostel is from 3-6 floors high with a dizzying array of sunny verandas, patios, trellises and balconies jutting out over the streets and structures below. Each floor caters progressively higher to a classier clientele, indeed after the second level customers are only those who pay exclusive membership dues and undergo initiation rites. Such “club” membership has become important to the status jockeying of residents.

A sample of the Great Hostels:
Finestra, Lodge of a Thousand Mirrored Gazes. Famed for its many, baroquely-famed mirrors and gawking, ever-judging clientele. Past the swill served on the first floor, the food and drink is quite good.

Ulthnarn of the Hanging Blade. The martially-themed Ulthnarn is noted for its many games of skill and chance, indeed it’s the only hostel that has a full hobbit-boloing arena. Gentlemen’s games can be found on the upper floors.

Duke Mraz’s Folly. The hruz, hallucinogenic mollusk paste, is out of this world as is the food. Decorated with strange shiny polished suits of armor.
 Games of the Great Hostels
Daemono. Tile-filpping game played with two-sided mosaic pieces. One side traditionally exhibits solid whites of Law, the other a multitude of vibrant colors for Chaos. The game is mostly played by the better sorts of the city.

Stonelegging. Two participants are in the ring. Live cockatrices are introduced into their trousers. The first one whose leg is petrified loses. In the better establishments a mage is on hand to reverse the process. Stonelegging is the NASCAR of Kezmarok.

Brinksman. Card game using bluffing, bluster and dumb luck. Anyone clearing the 21-count limit is slapped with a sand-weighted stick by custom.

Wrestling. Conducted in the nude except for gaudily covered harnesses. A sheet must remain between the wrestlers at all times for propriety’s sake.

Hobbit boloing. A wild Halfling is released into the ring. The first participant to knock him down wins the purse. All the contestants lose if the wee one escapes to the far gate.

Stave-fights. Just like it says, duels with quarter staffs. Usually conducted on narrow high-raised platforms. Sometimes combined with stonelegging and/or wrestling on slow nights.

Hippogriff races. Sadly now defunct.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kezmarok, The Great Tour Part One

Thanks to ruthlessly killing a PC—and having a party willing to travel a great distance and plop down a big chunk of swag for a resurrection—I finally made good on moving play out of the 120 mile stretch of the Hill Cantons proper. Play for the last month has centered in the half-ruined digs of a city—and it’s vast, sprawling undercity--I have been wanting to introduce for years now.

What follows is Part One of my introduction to this new sandbox.
Crappy Players Map (click to enlarge.)

The ancient Southlands metropolis of Kezmarok has been known my many names over the aeons:  Vu Commoron, Zenopolus, The City Three Quarters as Old as the Firmament of the Heavens, The City of 500 Graces (or the City of 500 Sybarites and Popinjays to some wags), the list rolls on.

Five long centuries of besiegement by the ever-patient and languid forces of the Turko-Fae have severed it’s dominance over a vast network of fortified ports. The resulting steady collapse and abandonment of great stretches of the mile-and-a-half long city have diminished its once teeming magnificence, but it stubbornly clings to a sad grandeur high on the Great Rock.

Barely 40,000 of its former 300,000 residents still make their home in the city, and a good quarter of those are the Northern cantonal mercenaries, bonded outsiders and slick operators looking to make a golden wheel (Ur Kolo) or two from the largesse of the city vaults.

Of its native citizens, gone are many of the common castes. The great legions of the indentured and poorer wage earners have long shipped out for greener pastures, northwards to the Cantons or southwards over the Persimmon Sea.

While clinging like the city to former greatness many of the nobility—almost a third of the residents now--have doggedly stayed, but downshifted into a “shabby gentility”. It’s not uncommon to come across a city block of half-collapsed red marble manses with great taub-taub trees growing through them and families of these pauperized patricians patching long-handed down robes and doublets, writing epic poems, polishing dented heirlooms, and acting out parlor theater in the remaining shells.

Defense of the triple great walls that choke off the peninsula from the mainland—and the great silken pavilions and stockades of the besiegers—is in the hands of the Bonded Companies. Many a northern landsknecht, gendarme, or reaver has made an easy lifetime of serving a “long bond”, a 20-30 year contract of service walking the walls and performing in the mostly bloodless and symbolic sallies against the great host outside.

Friday, July 13, 2012

South Texas Minicon Update

A few updates on what happening with the South Texas Minicon we are organizing August 18.

Getting Registered. First of all, registration is still the “right price” free, but if you are coming please boogie over to our special new minicon website to register and get oriented (updates will be posted there over the next few weeks). (Big thanks to Brad for getting this up and running.)

You can find registration here and information on logistics and the game schedule (full schedule TBA shortly) here. Forums are active here and we will start using that as the clearinghouse for discussion of games and other chit chat.

Supporting the Minicon and Win Judges Guild Swag. Infamous NTRPG Con Bad Mike (who will be attending and selling/giving away goodies from his giant roleplaying stash) is generously running a fundraising auction to support the convention expenses. Please go here and help us keep the minicon free as a liberated avian.

Game Schedule. Three slots of three game for each (possibly up to six for each slot if we reserve another room) from 10 am-10 pm.

The games to-date:
Jeff Dee, Bethorm, a Tekumel adventure supplement
Talzheimer Mrr, Cavemaster RPG
Norm Harman, Mutant Future
Ed Teixeira , 5150 Star Army
Mack, old school starship mini battles
Brad Ncube, DCC RPG (tentatively)
Yours Truly, By This Axe fantasy mini battles and (possibly) old school D&D

Drop me a line at kutalik at gmail dot com for more information.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Space Cantons Theme Music and Setting Info

Update and some exciting news (for us in the hills at any rate) coming this evening or tomorrow morning about the South Texas Minicon August 18th. For now here is more setting info, house rules (full PDF), and theme music for players and voyeurs of the Space Cantons Traveller mini-campaign now going into its second exploratory mission into the cosmic weird Thursday night.

Theme music in keeping with the 70s-trip space opera aesthetic.

Learning New Skills
Automatic 0-level skills. Characters are assumed to have 0-level skill (no modifier) in Vacc Suit, Air/Raft, ATV, Steward, a single gun skill of their choice, and a single blade skill of their choice.

Experience. After every session, any surviving character can opt to make a check to acquire a 0-level skill. If there was none directly used in the adventure roll 2d6, on a roll of 10+ (+1 if INT or EDU over 9+) the character can pick any skill. The player can add +4 to the check if rolling for a specific skill in an unranked skill that he/she used in the adventure (actual success/failure is irrelevant). Example: Mongo X decided to try and rewire the ship's console in the adventure (for God knows what reason). He opts to try and take Elec-0 as a skill and adds 4 to his dice roll.

Advanced Skills. Skills from Books 4 and 5 can be learned at 0-level for a training cost of 10,000 CR. This includes: Interrogation, Hunting, Survival, Ship Tactics, Zero G combat, Demolition, Air Vehicle, Water Vehicle, and Prospecting. Composite gun skills from Book 4 can be learned at 0-level for 50,000 CR such as Combat Rifleman, Pistols, Lasers (includes blasters), and Zero-G. Composite melee weapons skills can be taken at 30,000 CR: small blades, blunt weapons, long blades, and polearms.

Cerebral Implants and Neurostimulators. Learn a skill-1 of your choice for 100,000 CR. The procedure can only be used twice lest your brain explode.

Nonstandard Weapons
Snub Pistol (as per Book 4: Merc). CR 300. Can shoot fatal (3D) or stun rounds (20 CR for a clip of 6). Usable in vaccum.

Web Grenade. CR 200. Produces a 10-foot diameter sticky web lasts for 1d6 hours at the point of impact.

Setting Info
Bolo. Your employee-owned, "post-work" exploration coop. All large-scale "capital investments" (ie the ship, office and hangar) are owned collectively by the bolo. Individual crew members get equal shares of the session's profits.

Known Players. Beyond your bolo, there are a number of local factions or individuals who are interested in your findings beyond the Weird:
1. The Spacers Guild
2. Sekifran the Solicitor. Eccentric collector of antiques and curios. High-powered big-shot trial lawyer who's trademark signature is his striped ascots.
3. Three-Eyed Jac. Local underworld boss. Doesn't have a third eye.
4. The Hermetic College of Nova Marlankh. Offworld university interested in findings.
5. Outpost Nine Rada. The local planetary government.
6. Hydra Corp. A conglom, large family-owned industrial “fiefdoms”, based off-world but with a branch “holdfort” in Outpost Nine

Base Rate for Exploration
Preliminary report 20,000 CR (planetary scan, observation of sentient life, preliminary survey of other system bodies)
Surface survey 60,000 CR (week of surface exploration, full UPP plus additional information)
Full survey 200,000 CR (three weeks of surface, geological reports, etc.)

Local Cantonment Planets
Outpost Nine C446353-9 Non-Industrial
Your little windswept, hard-times home.

Jump 2 Away:
Nova Marlankh B5658A8-B G
Terra-formed world ruled by the loving yet firm hand of the Indomitable Overlord.

Kugelworld C546525-9 Non-Industrial G
Little peaceful backwater planet founded by pioneers-bolos during the Autonome Upheaval.

Vesworld D450213-4 (B) Non-Industrial G
Desert world wholly owned by the Vesworld Corp, an entertainment conglom that has recreated an “Old West sim” planet complete with life sentence prisoner-actors. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Space Mountebanks and Blasters

Of course as noted many times on this blog, I just can't simply play a game as written without unwisely messing under the hood. Bah orthodox RAWers be damned, this is the first post of likely a series of variant whoha for Classic Traveller for my Cantonment campaign.

With the mounting decadance of the Cantonment, Mountebanks (also known as “Grifters”) are a shockingly common career choice for the quick tongued and amoral. 

Though some enjoy only moderately-shady employment by the various factions, circles, cults, and collectives as “fixers” and spies, most Mountebanks ply their hustles as a life on the make throughout the confederation.

Mountebanks have no ranks and receive two skills per term.

Enlistment 7+
DM+1 if Dex 7+
DM+2 if Intel 8+

Survival 6+
DM+2 if Intel 7+

Reenlist 4+

Aquired Skills Table

Personal Development
1 +1 Endur
2 +1 Dex
3 +1 Intel
4 Gambling
5 Blade Cbt.
6 Bribery

Service Skills
1 Forgery
2 Leader
3 Streetwise
4 Gun Cbt.
5 Bribery
6 Jack-o-T

Advanced Education
1 Streetwise
2 Leader
3 Electronic
4 Admin
5 Computer
6 Forgery

Advanced Education (Educ 8+)
1 Medical
2 Computer
3 Electronic
4 Admin
5 Pilot
6 Jack-o-T

Mustering Out

Material Benefits
1 Low Psg
2 +1 Intel
3 +1 Educ
4 Gun
5 Blade
6 High Psg

Cash Allowances
1 2000
2 5000
3 10000
4 20000
5 20000
6 50000
7 100000

Blaster Pistol (TL: 11)
Base Weight: 1000
Length 350
Ammo 20
Ammo Cost 200
Base Price 6000
Damage 4D
Same modifiers and Dex requirements as Laser Carbine

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Space Cantons Visual Appendix N

Last night I ran Traveller for the first time in a good long spell. In fact it was so long ago that the Soviet Union was still gearing up for parachuting into a small Wyoming town and New Coke had the nation up in outraged arms, that's how long ago.

It felt very much like seeing an old friend, the achingly-sweet remembering why you dug hanging out with them in the first place. But also like meeting an old friend there was the odd perspective shifts, the slow jumps that remind you how much you have changed.

Coming back to D&D four years ago was different. Yes, there were a number of dramatic and subtle shifts that changed how I play the game, but overall there was an exuberance in embracing the core play-style and the great body of older pulp fantasy that inspired it.

With Traveller I felt after dusting off the books that I could only meet it halfway. The system felt as enjoyable as I remembered, but there was something about the implied feel/setting/background literature that just doesn't as much for me as it did. The kind of hard(ish) sci-fi of the 1950s-70s: the Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, E.C. Tubbs, H. Beam Piper (as much as I love Lord Kalvan), etc. school of projecting their now stuffy feeling cold war conservatism into the distant future of space opera. And the GDW house setting, the Imperium, which became more and more hardwired into the game itself left me even colder honestly.

That's not totally accurate, there was part of that era that has been inspiring me a great deal—besides still loving Jack Vance's contributions in that period—the art of a certain school of sci-fi artists of the 1970s. The great awe-producing full-color works of those four Terran Trade Authority books and OMNI magazine illustrations that crashed their way into my consciousness in 1979 just before getting into roleplaying proper (and CT was always my second game): the stunning work of Angus McKie, Jim Burns, Peter Elson, Peter Andrew Jones, Roger Dean, Chris Foss, Chris Moore and others.

The sensuous feeling, hallucinogenic influenced grand starships, full of organic, sloping curves and slender towers. The great mystery and pathos of drifting space hulks. The contrast of the primitive and the far future with the hint of the great swords & sorcery cover art of that period. The sense of something truly immense and unknowable out there among the stars.

All these elements hold great truck with me and influenced what I started stocking all those grey, unsurveyed planets on that subsector map from yesterday.

Let me show rather than tell.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Cantons in Spaaaace

I have been trying to resist the space opera bug for months now—Jeff Rients' Traveller Leviathan campaign reports just made matters much worse.

Basta. I surrender.

Starting today at 8:30 I will be running an on-again, off-again Classic Traveller mini-campaign on Google Plus.

The mini-campaign takes place on the outer edge of the Cantonment, a distant-future confederation of 31 worlds. The Cantonment has mysteriously just emerged from the confines of a pocket universe it was shoved into (just as mysteriously) five centuries ago to find it has been shoved to another spiral arm of the galaxy.

All around it is the yawning darkness of unexplored space.

The coreworlds of the Cantonment are in sad shape for confronting this development. An inward malaise and weariness has set in the long years of splendid isolation. Endless rounds of flower wars, ponzi schemes, financial collapses, feuds, peccadillos, insurrections, and the like have wracked the confederacy leaving its central government weak and inert.

But some are stepping forward to face outwardly into the stars. Grasping corporations, ambitious planetary radas (councils), and now even spunky little “bolos” (small, cooperatively-owned outfits leftover from the Autonome Upheaval) are outfitting their own ships.

You are one such bolo. Pooling your savings and pensions from your years in service you have purchased a 200-ton Stormchild-class Space Xebec (pictured above and statted below). The ship only crews six and your bolo is larger, so expect some rotation (cue the in-game excuse for rotating player composition). You start on the edge of known space at a squalid, little planet called Outpost Nine (0801 Outpost Nine C446353-9 Non-Industrial).

A small detail, you still owe payments on the ship. Every six months for the next 20 years you must pay 300,000 cr—or you are going to make the repo list pretty damn quick. And the life of a space repo man is always intense.

House Rules
1. We will be using the three LBBs and the Citizens of the Imperium for character generation. Any number of terms are acceptable.

2. Failure to meet a survival roll in chargen gives you the choice between “cake” (-1 to one of the first three stats and forced discharge from service with no skills/benefits for that term, add two years to your age) or “death”.

3. Any melee weapon can be bought in a suped-up version that cuts all to hit modifiers against armor in half (rounding down). Such weapons cost three times the normal price. Feel free to add “vibro”, “chain”, “power”, or what to the name of it to sex it on up.

The Ship
Name: [Player-Defined]
200-ton Space-Xebec
Constructed by Hydra-Corp, Nova Marlankh

M Drive: Mongo-Bakunin Model A Infectuator, 2G acceleration
J Drive: B, Schizflux Rhizomatic Model B, 2 jump
Power Plant: Runtaz 2
Range: Eight weeks maneuver. Two jumps. Six months. RAM-type fuel scoops and processors.
Gravities: Adjustable 0.1 to 2.0 floor fields. Inertial compensators.
Minimum crew: pilot/navigator, engineer
Full crew: above and gunner, medic, gun thug/procurement specialist, and xenobiologist (or other necessary expert).
Cabins: 6
Cargo: 20 tons of cargo.
Armament: dorsal hardpoint, dual laser-blaster turret standard. Optional weaponry available.
Electronics: TRS Model/Ibis or equivalent. 8-bit entertainment consoles with cassette drives. Magnetic tape and punchcards sold separately.
Ship's Boats: No auxiliary vessels. One four-passenger Chim'ba Air/Raft carried in aft. Used for errands and has limited sub-orbital capability.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Diary of an AD&D Wandering Monster

Patchwall 1, 576
Sweet screamin' Yeenohu, graduated from the Rel Astra School of Hermetic Iridology today! Drank a whole case of Velunian brandy and ate a cold fowl with the guys before our silver ran out. Lucky I sobered up before the sun went down, because man does the city get all kinds of cuh-razy what with all the slovenly trulls, press gangs, spectres, and were-tigers running around.

Patchwall 2, 576
Should have listened to my mom about remaining 0-level, because now I just have this crappy degree and normal man status to my name. With saves like this, what am I going to do?

Patchwall 18, 576
Should I change my name to an anagram?

Ready'reat 5, 576
Career path here I come. I was milling around the Old Quarter when a buff man in ring mail carrying a glaive-guisarme picked me out of the crowd and told me I was just the kind of dude he needed for his band of 20-200 “reclamation experts”. He assured me that his band was strictly neutral and that they didn't go in for that “chaotic evil brigandry kind of stuff” so I said “fuck yeah.”

He told me I need to bundle up my gear and hump it as they needed to get out pdq on account of the great need for normal men in the Inhabited And/or Patrolled Areas--especially those with Temperate and Sub-Tropical Conditions and all.

Ready'reat 6, 576
Did I luck out signing up with these guys. As I was shipping out I noticed a gang of crazy fuckers with beards. I was desperate enough I would have joined them and today I'd be running around barefoot screaming my head off with two weapons in each hand instead of getting my nice shiny new suit of boiled leather, light crossbow, and 2-8 gold pieces.

These dudes are a class act too. Not only is the boss a Lord but his lieutenant is a Champion. Both of them could fall 60 feet without dying! Sarge told me that we have a one in four chance of being joined Enchanter, Warlock, or Sorcerer too if we get lucky!

Fuck yeah!

Sunsebb 11, 576
Tough month, diary. It was cool when we just sat around that informal camp and all, but we have been marching up and down the countryside for like four weeks. That last patch of Uninhabited/Wilderness Areas was totally off the chain!

Sarge says we're looking for a cave complex with a secret entrance or a small castle, but I was like “good luck”.

Fireseek 8, 577
I doubted it, but we found a totally stupendous underground lair underneath this ruined abbey. This place extends for miles and has like scythe traps, trapezoidal rooms, tons of branching passages, and shit.

Sucks Dispater's hairy balls though because Sarge has broken us up into small groups and we have to march around the first level in ten-minute intervals. We can't even enter the levels below.

Fireseek 11, 577
Those bullywugs we keep bumping into are total dicks!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Zombastodon

No. Enc.: 1-3
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 2 tusks, 1 front trample
Damage: 2d6 (tusk), 1d12 (trample)
Save: F9
Morale: 12
XP: 1,500

Though colloquially called “zomabastodons” by feckless wags who care not for life and limb, the Mammut Morbidium is a reanimated spirit-demon of the more mundane mastodon. 

It is said that Kostej the Deathless himself had a hand in the base sorcery that first revivicated the lifeless corpses of the wooly elephantine pack animals so very much beloved by the northern rump-states of the Hyperboreans in the long glacial age that ended their civilization.

Whatever their origin, Zombastodons have been imbued with a relentless fury at two-legged mammals--and a cold, undying semi-intelligence to sustain that rage over the centuries. They appear as shattered shells of their former robustness, mangy hide splitting, exposed rib bones, and a demonic red glow to their eyes.

Zombastodons have the same range of magical protections as do the more human-appearing undead. They can be turned by clerics as per their hit dice (or as “vampires” in some systems).

Though their tusks are somewhat desiccated and gnarled by the ravages of time, each tusk is still able to fetch 1d4 x 100 gp from collectors of curios and the arcane.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Hyperborean Past-Future of the Hill Cantons

The Hyperboreans play a prominent and reoccurring role in the Hill Cantons campaign. Their cycolpean halls, haunted battlefields, tomb complexes and sprawling undercities stand testimony to the far reach of that time-space distant northern empire.

Jarek the Nagsman, Marlank bon vivant and sage, maintains that the World Turtle that the Hill Cantons rests on swims through time in a series of dialectical mini and macro cycles upwards to the End of History. The other planes, he contends, may be the antithesis or synthesis of the present of the HC, but of course that's absurd heresy.

Others more orthodox in their tastes maintain that Time itself revolves around the rim of the Sun-Lord's chariot wheel (which one is a matter of intense debate).

Whatever the true nature of this movement, I call on my friend Vsevolod Ivanov (the painter not the famous Soviet writer) and his wonderful paintings to provide snapshots--it's unclear in what point of the cycle actually occur/occurred--of that great civilization and its successor states.
The End of History

Meeting the Eld
Demise of the Grand Fleet
Latter States