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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Anomalies

There are generally three types of encounter / player obstacle.

Conscious Physical: involving humanoids, robots, animals, aliens etc

Environmental: storms, solar flares, volcanoes, mechanical failure etc

Anomalies: these are the sort of encounters you get a lot in shows like Star Trek, another example would be 2001 Space Odyssey. In these encounters an away team has to figure out what the anomaly is before figuring out how to deal with it.

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5th Dimension Handwavium

In my Traveller handwavium what we percieve as gravity is only the 4D representaion of a 5D phenomenon and both the Jump and Manouver drive work by manipulating these forces.

Psionic talents like teleportation follow the same logic, except instinctively i.e. Jump is a kind of teleportation.

The Cthulhu Mythos is integrated into the universe in the same way.

This background handwavium can provide the rationale for a lot of anomaly type encounters so exploration type campaigns aren’t all bug hunts.

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Navigation Hazards

As gravity is required for both Jump and Manouver drives this allows for gravitational navigation hazards: the equivalent of storms, whirl pools, rip tides, turbulence etc.

Part of scout service initial exploration is finding this sort of anomaly and marking them. They mostly can’t be fixed, just marked as a hazard (but some can e.g. enter a tesseract in space, press some buttons and its gone).

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Planetary Anomalies

Anomalies also exist on planets – places where the 5D is intruding onto the 4D universe.

Example: Space Ghosts

Some site is registered as an anomaly on a scout survey and an away team is sent to investigate. It could be a cave or an abandoned base or orbital station.

The ghosts are dreaming 5D creatures who display as slow moving white translucent humanoid figures. They are sentient but dreaming so can’t be rationally communicated with. Telepathy indicates dreaming. They are not intentionally hostile but curious – they move to contact the players and reach out to touch with their hands. Hands unnaturally cold: produce frost bite on exposed flesh, make any equipment brittle so it cracks and falls apart. They will follow players (slowly) but won’t cross the site threshold.

Space ghosts are immune to physical damage but sensitive to emotional projection: anger, hate, rage – once figured out firing a weapon with rage and anger can wake the 5D creature up and the ghost disappears; burst fire adds a DM, autofire adds more (ammo might be a problem).

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With this 5D handwavium any supernatural monster from any game can be used as an anomaly encounter as well as Cthulhu creatures.

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Solar System Generation

The standard Traveller world generation only generates one world per system so what does that mean in game terms.

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Solar Systems

The science of solar systems is roughly: a solar system has a star (sometimes more than one) from one of a collection of star types and around the star there are multiple orbits which may contain a planet of some kind. These orbits are divided into three zones: inner zone which is too hot for water; outer zone which is too cold for water and a potentially habitable zone in between. The size of the three zones depends on the heat of the star.

For example imagine two solar systems both with 12 orbits, one star is weak and so has say 2 inner orbits, 2 habitable orbits and 8 outer orbits; the second star is hot and has say 4 inner orbits, 4 habitable orbits and 4 outer orbits.

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Sidebar:

Gas giants form in the outer zone.

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Weak stars whose habitable zone is relatively close to the star are more likely to have planets that are within the star’s 100 diameter jump shadow and more likely to be tide locked

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Advanced Generation Systems

There are lots of more advanced world generation systems that create the whole solar system:

GURPS “First In”

MegaTraveller “Would Builder’s Handbook”

“Universe” scifi RPG

“Rogue Trader” from Warhammer 40K (my personal favorite)

however for the most part unless your campaign is very heavily focused on exploration this is going to be much more work than you’ll need.

So in game terms we can say that the Traveller world generation system generates the *best* planet in the system.

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Sidebar

A follow on from the idea that the world generated is the most habitable is that a system might have other planets that are not as good.

A quick way to generate this is if a generated planet has good physical stats roll a second time – if the world generated is worse make a note and then roll again until you don’t get a worse one.

Example: generated world has 866 physical stats; roll again and 440; roll again 310; roll again 520 – the 4th is better than the 3rd so drop it leaving three: 866, 440, 310

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Another follow on from the idea that the world generated in the standard system is the most habitable planet in the system is you can work backwards from the world to generate the solar system.

Mongoose Traveller: “Scout” has a good system for doing this.

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Conclusion

In most cases treat the world generated as the best in the system and don’t worry about the rest of the solar system unless needed and if available use the relatively quick and simple Mongoose “Scout” method of working backwards from the world.

In a campaign centered around exploration, either an early colonization campaign or a “five year mission” type campaign I’d suggest using the Warhammer 40K “Rogue Trader” system as that throws up navigational hazards which can be used as Star Trek like “anomalies” to investigate.

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Traveller World Stats

The interpretation of Traveller world stats has three cases.

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If you use the standard Traveller world generation stats you can get results that don’t seem to make sense, for example
– a system with no planet that has a population of billions
– a system with deadly atmosphere and a low tech level.

The solution to this problem is history or aliens.

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Aliens

One option is to add an alien species for each system that doesn’t make sense – for example a low tech species that is adapted to the deadly atmosphere of a system (or even one alien species per planet).

History

The second option is to add history – make up a succession of empires or mysterious ancients etc that can explain away any anomalies – for example a system with no planet and a large population could be the home world of a species destroyed in a past war with the only survivors living in habitats on the other planets in the system with enough industry to maintain the habitats.

It’s this that creates the three cases for world stat interpretation.

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The Three Cases

1) Third Imperium Universe:

In the 3I the gist of the history and the distribution of aliens is already known so the canon world stats need to be interpreted within that context.

2) Roll Your Own Universe:

If you randomly roll up a sub-sector then you need to make up your own history and/or aliens so the sub-sector make sense.

For example in the Glisten sub-sector the Glisten system has the highest tech level and a huge population but no planet at all. Ffudn has a very high population also and the second highest tech but on a small planet with only a trace atmosphere.

http://travellermap.com/?x=-93.835&y=44.094&scale=93.703125

So how come?

In the context of the 3I this has to be explained using the 3I’s history and aliens however if you imagine you rolled up Glisten sub-sector as a random sub-sector then you can roll your own history and aliens to explain it so for example you could say Glisten and Ffudn evolved separate species and space travel on standard earth-like worlds but in a devastating war both destroyed each other’s home world leaving the surviving Glisten population living in orbital habitats around other planets in the system and the Ffudn population living in a giant tunnel warren on a gas giant moon – both having enough industry in those artificial habitats to maintain those habitats.

However there’s also a third option.

3) History First:

If you want to set up a campaign with an implied history, for example
– an early colonization from a home world by one stellar species
– a re expansion of a once collapsed civilization over lost colonies
then the standard world generation method has to be adapted to suit the history.

The implied history of a re-expansion setting requires the players starting on the edge of the advancing interstellar civilization into a region of space which is emerging from a Dark Age so probably doesn’t have any interstellar societies: no class A star ports and possibly a max tech level and where population size is more limited by planet type and tech level as they would have had to be self-sufficient during the “Dark Age.”

The implied history of an early colonization campaign is initially no nearby interstellar species, only the home world has an A star port and all unexplored systems are Xs with zero population (unless pre-stellar aliens or a population seeded by an earlier star faring civilization). The only stats rolled in this case would be the physical ones.

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