Sunday, January 13, 2019

Edge of Night Sector .. or How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

After running D&D for my face-to-face game group for the last seven years, I decided needed a bit of a break from swords and orcs for awhile. For various real life reasons, I also needed something that required little or no new game prep and no need to gronk new rules. I'd put together a short Classic Traveller game about a year ago that never quite got off the ground, so we decided to try a reboot (the original campaign background is here). It was pretty much ready to run right away, and after several years of playing Classic Traveller myself,  I'm starting to internalize the rules much like I've already done with B/X D&D. So no problem, no prep ...  

And of course I then proceeded to spend untold hours over Christmas rolling up a full sector, of which the players will likely never see more than 2-3 systems. Behold, the Edge of Night Sector!



To be fair, a few of the sub-sectors were all ready done. That said, 453 worlds and 5889 rolls of the dice later (not counting trade routes), a few thoughts on the process:

  • Rolling up Traveller worlds is  really fun mini game all in itself. I'm continually amazed at how enjoyable it is to just play with all the little bits of Traveller (character generation, spaceship construction, world generation, etc) even with the knowledge that most of it will never see the light of day game-wise. That is true of all role playing games, but for some reason I find it especially true with Traveller. 
  • There is some thing cathatic, relaxing, oddly satisfying or whatever of taking that mass of numbers and molding it into a somewhat logical whole. Plop it all down on the map, add some trade routes and suddenly all sorts of connections and adventure possibilities pop out. Why is there a super high tech planet sitting out by itself in the edge of nowwhere? What's up with that sub-sector full of airless rockballs of all shapes, sizes and populations? 
  • I have now internalized the world generation process to the point where I no longer need to look any the book when rolling up systems. Not sure how useful that is in terms of a life skill, but there it is. But I still can't keep the &#$%(^ atmosphere types straight in my head.
  • Progress was slow at first, but by the end I could whip out a sub-sector in a couple of hours, map and all. 
  • Going strictly by the word generation rules,you end up with a lot of Mars-size and smaller planets. Those in the size range of Earth (size 8) are relatively rare.
  • Speaking of which. Earth-like worlds, defined as those planets with earth-like size, atmosphere and hydrology [i.e 867 for the first three numbers of the UWP], are exceedingly rare. Out of 453 worlds, only 3 met the criteria. And one of those I fudged to fit a particular idea I had in mind. 
  • On the other hand, worlds with hellish insidious atmospheres abound; 14 'C' type atmospheres, and  5 'B' types. And there were more, but I decided to re-roll a few as it was stretching the realm of believably with that many really awful planets. You'd think there weren't any nice, comfortable planets available ...
  • However, as a general rule, with just a few exceptions (minimize number of hell-holes as noted above, and adjusting technology levels so there weren't too many tech level 1 civilizations on worlds that required air tanks to breath), I went with whatever the dice gave me. Yeah it's kind of hard explaining a population of 80 billion on an airless rockball, but that's part of the fun.
  • Determining trade route as per the 1977 rules really helped tie it all together in a big picture. Made laying out sensible interstellar borders easy, and offered up lots of ideas about who got along (or didn't) with who. The pattern of Navy bases helped too. The 'Pact of Iron' and "Kazzarian Warlords" came about when I noted the large concentration of navy bases in that area. Obviously must be a lot of conflict going on there. 
  • Number wise, each world is unique. Not one repeat in the UWPs. Not even close. I'm sure someone with a better statistics background than me could show that's not surprising, but to me after rolling all those dice, it's pretty damned impressive. 
  • Coming up with 453 names that wouldn't make me cringe in a months time was a challenge. A huge chuck are random made up spacey type names. There are a few clusters of worlds with related real word names (ex: Arthurian hero, metals, characters from Greek tragedies, trees, etc). Some whimsical names in a Niven's Known Space vein (Onward-Upward, It's Ended), references to classic science fiction writers and the folks at GDW. And one system called 'Name'; obviously some poor scout filled out the form wrong.
Now, where to put that creative energy now ...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Far Isles Session #99 & #100 - Null Meets Mist

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 7)
Chaff (Vivimancer 7), with familiar Pretty Bird and riding raptor, Sue
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 7), with familiar Hermes
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 7)
Wilhelm (Musketeer 2) [NPC]

Glimpsing at least one other 'yellow man', plus a second figure lurking in the room beyond the stairs, Rodrigo sensed an impossible tactical situation and bellowed to everyone "down the stairs!" And down the stairs they went, jumping off the sides of the open metal staircase in their haste to get away. The party spread out in a circle around the base of the stairs and waited for their foe to follow. It soon did, or rather another automaton with a fully functional blast cannon did. Behind it marched the one with the mangled weapon.  The first leveled it's weapon and fired a blast, thankfully missing.  Kwinsea managed to get an angle where she was able to blast both with a lightning bolt. This blew the already damaged one into it's constituent pieces, and scorched the shiny armor of the second. Chaff then followed up with a web spell that trapped it on the stairs, and it then took just a bit more pummeling from Awg, Rodrigo and Wilhelm  before it too was 'aggressively powered down'.

Meanwhile, Chaff had started casting a  chimera spell, and summoned a mossy, be-tentacled, insectoid monstrosity. He ordered this up the stairs to attack whatever it found in the room above. The rest of the party, with Rodrigo once more in the lead, followed some distance behind. They emerged to see the monster lashing out at a humanoid creature. It was tall with reddish skin and black eyes, wearing some type of silver jumpsuit, and with a collection of golden chains across it's face. Its skin and flesh were very decayed and immediately everyone figured this thing was the undead or undying Armul Urthag. The creature raised a laser pistol and shot the summoned monster as the rest of the party charged in. Wilhelm walloped it with the butt of his musket, but Awg and Rodrigo could make no contact. Kwinsea cast spider climb to get above the fray, while Chaff tucked himself behind some machinery to start summoning another chimera. Armul cast a fan of magic missiles at Kwinsea, Wilhelm and the moss monster, all of whom survived. The party followed up with some hack and slash by Awg and Rodrigo. Kwinsea tried to help from above with  a blast from her prismatic ray gem, but hit the unfortunate Wilhelm instead and thus permanently ended his employ with the party. 

Having been badly beaten by Awg and Rodrigo, Armul's next spell caused him to disappear. Both Awg and Rodrigo lashed out again, assuming he'd just gone invisible. But their weapons hit empty space. Chaff by this time has summoned his latest creation, an ooze-like multi-legged, lizard headed nightmare with poison breath. But for the moment at least, there was nothing for the creature to attack. That didn't last long, for all of a sudden Kwinsea (clinging to the ceiling), noticed a roof hatch opening and the hideous face of Armul Urthag appeared. A few words of a spell from him, and the room the party occupied exploded into a fiery inferno. Everyone suffered hideous damage to within an inch if their lives; or in Chaff's case, an inch beyond. The little vivimancer stumbled out from behind the machinery and collapsed dead on the floor.  But not before he'd directed his latest creation to breath its' foul breath on their foul foe. Kwinsea meanwhile had been trying to silence Armul, but the spell effect ended up centered on the hatch itself rather than their attacker. Awg had used his/her sword to levitate up to the hatch, and then planted a grappling hook into the creatures flesh. In return. Armul shot him with the laser pistol and Awg drifted away dead.  Kwinsea, after quaffing a healing potion, cast another silence spell and this one stuck to Armul. Rodrigo for his part had rushed over to Chaff and rifled through the vivimancers pockets, grabbing the ebony fly, which he then summoned and flew up to take Awg's place in the air. Once there he tried to grab the grappling hook and haul Armul out of the hatch. That didn't work, so dodging laser fire he simply drove his short sword into the creatures face. Armul's skull split in half, and his body slipped through the hatch and fell to the floor below. 

With a sigh of relief and a word of thanks, Kwinsea and Rodrigo searched their fallen friends for healing potions and tossed back the life giving liquors. They then respectfully dumped the bodies in the bag of holding for transport back to civilization and hopefully raising.   But first they still had to find the "Null" so they could complete their mission. While Rodrigo set to ripping jewelry out of Armul's face, Kwinsea looked around the room, There were two KRYO-Tanks, one with the same types of hoses and needles as the ones in the room below. The second had been sealed shut at some point, and inside floated a mass of the blackest black. This amorphous material showed no features, but Kwinsea got the impression that it was moving and whirling about none the less. This, based on the description given by the sage, looked to be the "Null". But what to do now; there was no obvious way to get the primordial magic force from point A to point B. There was a connector on the KRYO-Tank that was matched by an identical one on the stasis cube, but there was no way to join the two. Kwinsea and Rodrigo started to search the room, but found nothing that matched the connections, There was a small locked metal cabinet next to one of the KRYO-Tanks. There was no obvious keyhole or lock, but Kwinsea did not a smooth shiny patch on the front. She tired pushing on it to no avail, before dragging Armul's corpse over and tried his fingers. This worked, and with a 'click' the cabinet opened.  Inside there was no connector, but they did recover another laser pistol and 8 fully charged cartridges. 

Having no luck on this floor, they climbed up through the hatch to check out the roof. There they were able to examine the collection of poles, round disks, and guy-wires they'd seen from a distance. But still no connector. They headed back down the tower, searching the tank room, fallen automatons, and storage room to no avail, They even questioned Gor, who was of no help. In the end the only place left was the floor with the elevator guardians. The two were very wary, knowing they stood little hope of winning a fight at this point, But since Rodrigo had been successful in sneaking behind them before, they decided to take their chances and get into the room with the door frame and weird machinery.  Once there, they saw an obvious switch on the free-standing door frame. And after some hemming and hawing, Rodrigo reached out and flipped it on. The frame lit up and after a few moments a shimmery figure appeared in the frame. It looked like a young female of the same race as Armul Urthag, dressed in a similar silver jumpsuit and with the same golden chains on her face. The figure spoke, but in a language neither Rodrgio or Kwinsea understood. Kwinsea dug out Awg's mother of pearl egg in the hopes it would help. It didn't seem useful, but after Kwinsea had tried saying "hello, we come in peace" a few times, the hologram's speech slowly shifted to near perfect Common. "Greetings. How may I be of assistance? I detect that you carry a Mark 4.1 v2.3247 stasis cube, and four Mark 1.3 v1.112bis65a laser pistols. Do you need assistance with your technology?". Kwinsea asked quickly about connecting the stasis cube to the KRYO-Tank, and the hologram indicated it was simply a matter of using the correct dongle. She gestured vaguely to the left where a piece of machinery suddenly came to life. After a few minutes, the moving and shifting pieces stopped to revel a length of hose or wire with connectors matching that on the stasis cube. The hologram then helpfully informed the pair that the stasis cube could hold the full "4.7 uladecs" of null energy contained in the KRYO-Tank. Questioned about what that meant, and explaining the ultimate planned use of the "Null", the hologram indicated 4.7 uladecs was sufficient to form an anti-magic shield of 4.9 imperial square miles (4.2 Esarian standard miles). Which, after a few quick calculations, reveled an issue with the party's plan to save both Bellephrone and Xin from the Mists.  There wasn't enough "Null" to cover both the Anchorage  island and Xin. 

But that was a problem for another day. After first getting the hologram to recharge all their laser cartridges, Rodrigo and Kwinsea headed back to the shore boat (recovering Chaff's dinosaur along the way) and made their way back to the "No Man's Sea". Once there, they directed Lynessa to raise sail and make haste for the Anchorage and Belleprone. They were especially urgent for now they could see an eerie creeping mist on the eastern horizon; it looked like they had little time to waste. Getting back to Belephrone after a weeks' voyage, they took the sorceress up on her offer to bring back fallen companions as her payment for their help in breaking the cycle of the Mists. 

After couple of days stewing in the pot, Chaff and Awg returned more or less as before, and the party had to decide what to do. Bringing Bellephone into their confidence, they definitely committed to saving the sorceress. But they had hopes of also saving Xin, convinced now that it was the target of the returning Mists. No one really relished the thought of their home getting removed from this world to travel trapped through space and time for all eternity along with the rest of the Far Isles. Besides, all their gold was in the bank there. But they didn't really care much for the Faceless Inquisitor, and so hatched a plan. They would use a third of the "Null" to protect Bellephrone, and use the rest over Xin. But would ensure the Palace of the Faceless Inquisitor was outside the protective shield so the insane ruler would be sucked away with the rest of the Far Isles. This unfortunately, due to the geography of the city, meant several other districts of Xin would be lost (Blackmilk, UnderHulks and the Collegium).  To save as many of the people from imprisonment in the Mists as possible, the party decided to throw a party like Xin had never seen before and invite everyone from those districts especially. Then they could make sure the people stayed under the protective "Null " shield and a least they would be saved. And since, if the plan worked, the city would be ruler-less, Chaff decided to go into politics. The little vivmancer with the intestine hand would try to woo the crowds, take credit for saving them, and take over the city with help from the rest of the party. 

Within a few days, the Mist had crept within sight of the Anchorage. Bellephrone informed them all the islands to the east (the Jungle Isles, Coral Cays and others) were already engulfed. As the Mist started to lap the shores, Chaff mounted the ebony fly, and following the instructions given by the hologram, spread a protective semi-transparent magical shield over Bellephone's end of the island. With that in place, the party jumped aboard the 'No Man's Sea' and headed at top speed for Xin. There, they organized their party and Chaff quietly started paying bribes and clandestinely campaigning [19000gp total cost]. The party was a smashing success, and while the city was lost in a haze of celebration, Chaff once more use the fly to spread the "Null" shield. Everyone thought it was part of the party and cheered him on, but when the Mist moved on after a few days to reveal the missing parts of the city, they all sobered up in a hurry. Chaff, building on his new-found fame and connections, put out word of what happened and claimed credit for saving Xin. But the people saw only the gaping hole where their homes and lives had been. They instead rallied behind one of the city nobles to lead the city; the party's doppelganger enemy, Margrave Uhlan of the 30 Chains! Driven out of Xin by a raging mob, the party jumped aboard the "No Man's Sea" and headed out once more on the high seas ....

AND HERE ENDS THE 'FAR ISLES' CAMPAIGN ...

TOTAL XP
141980

GAINS
2 laser pistols & 8 cartridges
18 jeweled chains (7460gp)

KILLS/VICTORIES
2 Automatons
Armul Urthag
The Faceless Inquisitor and approx 40% or the population of Blackmilk, UnderHulks and the Collegium

LOSSES
Chaff [temporarily]
Awg [temporarily]
Wilhelm [permanently] 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Far Isles Session # 98 - Tower of Armul Urthag

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 7)
Chaff (Vivimancer 7), with familiar Pretty Bird and riding raptor, Sue
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 7), with familiar Hermes
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 7)
Wilhelm (Musketeer 2) [NPC]

Finding no appropriate landing spot on the hilly end of the island, the party rowed ashore to a narrow beach at the jungles edge, and schlepped their way overland toward the tower. Before too long they intersected with a road of unusual design. The surface, rather than a rutted cart track or cobblestone surface, was made up of a continuous strip of grey stone-like material. Obviously old, but apart from a weed poking through here and there, in remarkably good shape. Since it appeared to wind from the water's edge up  to the tower itself, the party took the easy route and followed along. As they approached closer to the tower, they could see it was constructed of a similar grayish material, and covered in greenish lichen which suggested it was of ancient origin. Like the road, the stone showed no signs of mortar or seams; instead it looked to be made of one continuous piece of 'stone'. Over 150  tall', it was featureless except for a couple of banks of amber colored windows on the upper levels. In addition, the top featured a strange collection of poles, round plates and cables. As for access, there was a metal staircase wrapped round the base which led to a pair of massive metal doors about 30' above the ground. As Kwinsea started to search for traps around the stairs, she also noted a small opening at the base of the tower which was largely obscured by a collection of jungle fronds and ferns. The party went over to check this out, cutting out the foliage to uncovered a 3' high round tunnel leading into the base of the tower. Rodrigo lit a torch and tossed it in, revealing the passage to be about 40' in total length with no obvious branches to either side.  Noting that Chaff was just the perfect height to walk upright, the vivmancer was coerced into exploring further. Apart from a human skeleton sprawled across the floor at about the halfway point, he found nothing of interest except, at the end of the tunnel, a narrow shaft leading down. Collecting the rest of the party to have a look, they noted iron rungs set into the wall of the shaft. Tying the torch to some rope, Rodrigo lowered it down the shaft, finding that it descended about 60' before entering a room or space below. Rodrigo volunteered to squeeze down first, but wasn't about to trust the rungs. He reached into the bag of holding and hauled out one of the long metal bars looted from the crystal eggs. He set this across the opening, secured his rope to it, and lowered himself down. 

At the bottom the swashbuckler found a circular room with a flat wall at one end. Around all around the walls were metal racks with panels of glass bulbs, switches and little colored squares. In the centre stood a separate panel, this one with a similar collection of lights and things, but with a massive double pull-double throw switch dominating all. When nothing jumped out at him, Rodrigo called the rest of the party to follow him down. Unfortunately, that meant Chaff had to leave his new riding dinosaur to wander free outside. Reaching the bottom, Chaff and Kwinsea both experienced a vague feeling of deja-vu; this equipment reminded them somewhat of the Kalandrian cosmic computer and the bastard space-elf barge. Definitely not your typical wizard tower look.  And speaking of looking, the party spread out to search the room. Kwinsea went to look for secret doors along the flat wall; she noted there seemed to be a hollow space behind , but could see no way to access it. Rodrigo and Awg started to argue the pros and cons of throwing the switch. Chaff listened to their exchange for a few moments, then impetuously walked over the the panel, jumped up, and hauled down the switch. Everyone froze, but when nothing happened, Chaff jumped up again to throw the switch to the upper position. This time something did happen; a deep hum filled the room, and the glass balls and coloured squares on the panels started to light up and flash in seemingly random patterns. Overhead, several long strips in the ceiling lit up, bathing everything in a cool white light. In front of Kwinsea, the stone wall slid aside to reveal a pair of metal doors.  Next to the doors was a small panel with two lit squares on it. Awg sauntered over and pressed the bottom one. There was a rumbling sound from behind the doors, and a few moments later they opened to reveal a small metal clad room. Awg and Kwinsea gingerly stepped inside, and observed another panel. This one had five squares from top to bottom. Awg reached over and pressed the second from the bottom. The doors started to close, slamming shut as Rodrigo dove over to try to stop/join them. The swashbuckler then started punching the bottom square frantically, hoping to save his companions.

The Cellar
Said companions had the sensation of being hauled up in the air, and after about half a minute, the doors slid open again. It opened up into a large circular room. There was a circular staircase going up at the far side of the room, while a larger pair of metal doors graced the right hand wall. Otherwise the room was empty as far as they could see; however they didn't look long as the doors closed again and they found themselves falling, only to have the doors open again to reveal a frantic Rodrigo staring them in the face. Reassured that the room was safe, everyone now crowded in and watched Awg press the third button. The box rose again, and after a short time opened up into another round room. Again there was a circular staircase (going up and down), but no doors in the outer wall. There was also a scattered mess of old metal crates, mostly destroyed. Poking around, Chaff uncovered a few square, metal wrapped, soft bricks. He cut one open to reveal a brown crystalline material, which a little sniffing identified as a sugary substance. Meanwhile, Awg strained his/her ears to listen over the rustling sound Chaff was making, and heard something moving over around the stairwell. Rodrigo donned the ring of invisibility and crept over the look. He found, hiding behind a few ruined crates, a rather scruffy looking man. Dressed in crude skins, he looked like he could use a square meal and a drink. Going back to the party, they decided to break out some rations and water, then go over to the man and offer him some while eating some themselves to prove it was safe. At first terrified of their strange strangers, the man soon took the offering and started to gorge himself.  Once he was done eating, Chaff said a simple 'hello'. To which the man responded, in an archaic but recognizable form of Common. Questioning him, the party learned he (who's name was Gor) came from a village in the jungle. As to how he got to the tower, Gor reveled he'd been selected with several other villagers to be sacrifices to their god Armul Urthag, who's home was this tower. The god had come to the village with his two 'yellow men', as he did once a year or so, and selected several of the youngest and fittest adults as sacrifice. It was a great honor to be selected, and Gor came along gladly. But once at the tower, he was frightened by what he saw; the sacrifices were locked in metal tubes and a multitude of things stuck in them. Gor ran away and hid, but has been too terrified to look for a way out of the tower ever since. Asked where this all happened, Gor said somewhere on the floors above. He'd been taken there in the moving metal room and didn't really know which floor the sacrifices or Armul and his yellow men were located. Asked about Armul, Gor described him as a tall man with reddish skin, but looking very old and decayed. His face was also covered in gold or something. 

The party tried to convince Gor to come with them, but he refused to leave his hiding spot. Awg gave him a dagger which Gor accepted gladly. After a quick double check of floor below via the moving room, the party decided to use the stairs to go up. With an invisible Rodrigo in the lead, they made their way to the next floor. This was not wide open. Instead, there was a corridor leading from the stairs to what they guessed was the moving room doors at the far end. Crouched motionless to each side of the doors was a humanoid figure. Halfway down the hall on each side was an opening. Rodrigo crept down to glance inside, keeping one eye on the crouched figures. Through one opening was an empty room. In the other was a strange mass of metal framework and machines. In the centre was looked like a freestanding door frame about 3'deep. The swashbuckler retreated back to the party to fill them in. But rather than explore further on this floor at the moment, they decided to continue their climb. 

"Yellow Man"
The stairs came to an end on the next level; another set of circular stairs could be seen at the far side of the room where the moving room doors should have been. This room, unlike the others below, was not lit up by the cool blue overhead lights. Instead, the only lighting was natural, coming through amber colored panels along one wall. The warm yellow light fell on a series of tanks around the perimeter of the room, 22 in total. These were made of metal with a glass door on the front. The party entered warily, going over to look at closest vessel. Inside, a withered human body floated in a greenish fluid. Stuck into the body was a multitude of hoses, wires and similar pointy things. Awg, meanwhile, went over to the windows, and discovered the centre one was actually a door. It opened onto a narrow, rail-less balcony facing the jungle to the south east. Meanwhile, inside the room the party started to fan out to look around. As they did, the bodies in the tanks suddenly jerked into movement. Doors were opened, fluid poured out, and the grotesque bodies ripped themselves from their attachments and started to shuffle towards the party. Aug called out to everyone to retreat to the balcony; they could deal with them one by one in the doorway rather than all at once. That seemed like a good idea, so they ran out the door and prepared to meet their foes. First shot went to Wilhelm and his musket, blasting down the lead body. He then got out of the way to let Kwinsea blast another dozen with a lighting bolt. But still they kept coming, so Awg and Rodrigo flanked the door and starting chopping them down one by one. Several times one of the warriors was grabbed and slammed against the door frame, but eventually all the attackers were shot, shocked or stabbed and the danger was past. 

Worried now that anyone on the floors above would be alert to their presence, the party rushed the stairs hoping to get the drop on any foes. With an invisible Rodrigio in the front, they  blundered up the stairs and right into a 'yellow man'. This was a tall humanoid, consisting of sickly beige plates assembled over a metal framework. Of more immediate interest was the raised arm which consisted of some kind of blast weapon. It fired, catching Rodrigo (and to a lessor extent Awg behind him) in a gout of flame. The swashbuckler pulled out a lighting termite grenade and jammed it in the end of the blast cannon. It exploded, slagging the automaton's weapon and spraying Rodrigo with bits of molten metal ...

TO BE CONTINUED ...

TOTAL XP
638

GAINS
None

KILLS/VICTORIES
22 Kryo-Tank Drained Villagers

LOSSES
None (yet)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pointless Musings on 1977 Classic Traveller Skills

For no particular reason, I've been looking at the 1977 Traveller skill tables. Putting aside the weapon skills, a few thoughts on general skills come to mind:

Out of 23 listed skills, there are three which are open to just a single career; Ship's Boat (Navy), Forgery (Other), Steward (Merchant). 
Forgery and Steward makes some sense restricted to their particular careers. Ship's Boat seems odd though; I would think merchants and maybe scouts occasionally have to buzz around the solar system rather than jump through interstellar space. Of course the 1981 rules fudged/fixed this by allowing Pilot (with appropriate penalties) to be used in place of Ship's Boat. But still ....

Each career has from 10 (Other) to 14 (Merchant) skills available to them. 
Looking back to the first point, maybe that's why Merchants don't get Ships Boat. They're already at the top of the 'range of skills available' list. Maybe it was a game balance decision? Still sucks for Scouts though. But they usually die in character generation anyway ...

Every career qualifies for Computer, Electronics, Mechanical, Medical.
I'm sure this says something regarding assumptions of how the game is played, or the default setting. Not sure what though; things break frequently, including the characters? Note that if your Traveller group is missing any of these skills, there must have been some sucky dice rolling involved.

Marines and Army look pretty similar when it comes to skills.
Well duhh. Differences are minor. Army qualifies for Air/Raft and Forward Observer, while Marines can get Vacc Suit. Which makes perfect sense if you follow the assumption that Marines specialize in ship boarding actions, and Army are the ground-pounders.

Navy can get Forward Observer?
Directing orbital bombardment? Schlepping along with the Marines when the poor jarheads have to get their boot's dirty planet-side? Some early draft of starship combat where FO was required? I'm probably over thinking this one.

When it comes to shady dealings, the difference between Merchant and Other careers is slim.
Both Merchant and Other have a lock on most of the dodgy skills; each get Bribery and Streetwise, and Other adds Forgery to the mix. Which goes to support the assumption (never really spelled out anywhere in the rules) that Other is a criminal underworld career; and suggests that Merchants are more smuggler than CEO. 

No Gunnery for Marines 
I like to think of my Marines as Royal Marines, who traditionally supplied the gun crew for one turret on a circa WW1 Royal Navy battleship. Not gonna happen with this skill list. 

No Admin for Scouts
And we trust these guys to make our star charts and record data on the known universe? Oh well, they usually die in character generation anyway ...

No Leader or Tactics for Navy
Seems like this would be a given for a military career. But again that bumps the total available skills up high for Navy. And if you follow that line of thinking too far, Navy Marines and Army all start too look pretty much alike. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Far Isles Session #97 - Palace of the Faceless Inquisitor

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 7)
Chaff (Vivimancer 7), with familiar Pretty Bird, and riding dog, Puppy Whuppy
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 7), with familiar Hermes
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 7)

The ship was barely at the dock before Lynessa assembled the crew, distributed their pay, and released them to the taverns of the Fogbound Quays for a few days of drunken debauchery. She then turned to the business of repair and resupply, while the party likewise fanned out across Xin in pursuit of their own needs and desires over the next number of weeks.

  • Chaff and Kwinsea both tracked down their previous magical mentors (Lady Volana and Xerious the Free, respectively) hoping to add to their spell-casting repertoire. After making suitable payment and performing the requested services, the two settled down to spend the next month in study. Chaff walked away with Chimera I and Blood into Rope, while Kwinsea learned Swarm Transformation and Winter's Wail;   
  • In the meantime, Awg visited the calmonari villages and recruited a pair of his/her kin to replace their lost crewmen;
  • Once done with spell research, Chaff went shopping for guns from Opher the Gunsmith. She had a new wheel-lock to offer [750gp] which the vivimnacer snapped up. She also showed Chaff her latest invention; a pair of massive bombards. Hideously expensive (10000gp each; 500gp of powder per shot), big (6' long, 3000lbs), destructive (4d6 ship HP damage and chance of fire damage; fires as per catapult in terms of ROF and crew), and likely unreliable. But Chaff's eyes glittered at the thought of having these big boom-boom's on the boat, so after clearing the expense with the rest of the party, he bought them both. And hired a couple of new musketeer gun crews to operate them;
  • Chaff also went shopping for a new ride, getting a small raptor dinosaur at a bargain basement price from Vadaris, Predominant Lord Chamberlain of the Satyric Chamber. Dinosaurs are so yesterday among the elite; the latest fad is arctic creatures from the Cold Nar;
  • The party also chipped in to get Wilhelm and Lynessa gifts in appreciation of their cheerful service. A fine cutlass for the captain and a bejeweled cuirass for the sergeant; 
  • On the magic item front, the party made rounds of the temples to look for potions of healing. Unfortunately, the party is now persona non-grata at most of the temples in town due to their connection with the destruction of the Temple of the Three Virtues and the fire-balling of the Temple of Brall. But the main temple of Garu Dar was willing to deal; they were too stoned to notice what's going on. Six (6) were purchased;
  • Likewise, a sage [Palova] was hired to identify the crystal fruit. They learned that crystal fruit allows the individual who eats one to access a higher intelligence (as per the spell Contact Other Plane.) She offered no advice on how one would go about eating one of the fruit without dental disaster; 
  • Kwinsea also hired a different sage [Lancarious] to learn more about the liquid lighting the party had liberated from Iomnogoren's lair. She learned that it was essentially the essence of lightning in solid (well, liquid) form. Rich in elemental magic, it could probably be used for lots of magical things. But in an immediate sense, he directed Kwinsea an alchemist who could use it to make lightning related potions. In the end they used they  had to make 3 lightning thermite grenades [2d6 damage in 10' radius, save for half].
Last but not least, the party retained the services of yet another sage to research possible 'god-level magic' that would allow them to follow through on their plan to mask the mists. At the end of their busy month, the party returned to get their information. The sage Gervis described to them a substance known as "The Null". It was the primordial stuff from which magic was formed at the beginning of the universes. It is known for it's ability, among other thing, to overwhelm and mask magical emanations. Gervis did have information on the location of a sample of this "Null", in an old tower to the far south that supposedly dated from before the Godswar that set the planet back to the stone ages millennia ago. The only problem is the party would need something in which to collect the Null; it just can't be stuffed in a sack. The good news was Gervis knew where to find such a thing, an containment device known as a stasis cube. The bad news is it was hidden somewhere in the sprawling mass of the Palace of the Faceless Inquisitor. So the party now faced having to do a little break and entry into the home of the mentally unstable and horrifically powerful ruler of Xin.

After a few moments hesitation, the party decided they had no choice if they wished to go ahead with their plan. They knew a little about the Palace; as the centre of government for the city, it was actually considered public space for the most part and wandering around inside would not be difficult as long as the party didn't act too suspicious. However, the Palace was known to be an indecipherable maze made up of dozens of structures and gardens, and miles of un-mapped and un-mappable passages. Regardless, their first choice was to reconnoiter on foot, so next morning they found themselves arriving in the main courtyard of the Palace, along with the public officers, petitioners and prisoners. Choosing a stairway and door at random, they plunged in.  

They entered into a reception chamber; in one corner stood a stone fountain overflowing with a sticky mauve goo. They choose to ignore this, and exited through a second door into a gallery or museum. The walls consisted of one massive painting depicting a bacchanalian feast. While well done, it was most notable for the eerie feeling that the figures were moving about in one's peripheral vision. Also of note was the cluster of table in the centre of the room, at which sat an old man transcribing text from a massive tome. Chaff went over the engage the gentleman, Tiberian by name,  in conversation. The exasperated scribe explained he was scribing a copy of the Legal Codex of Xin in green ink. When asked why, he explained it was at the orders of the Faceless Inquisitor. And if you could please go away; he had much to do and had no desire to arose the wrath of his mercurial sovereign. Chaff apologized, then surreptitiously cast mind slave on the man to make him more cooperative. From his new best friend, Chaff learned that travel and searching in the Palace was not going to be easy. It had some means of sowing confusion on those who roamed it's halls. It was never clear how to get to where, or even where 'where' was at any given time.  If you were supposed to be 'there', the Palace would allow your destination to be easily found. Otherwise, good luck. Tiberian illustrated that point as he tired to give directions to the party, and hopelessly fumbled the attempt. 

Not sure what to make of Tiberian and his confusion, the party pushed on through another door. This led them along a covered gallery with windows overlooking some unknown courtyard, then down a few flights of stairs to a solid oak door. Once more barging in, they found themselves in what was obviously a torture chamber. Racks and chains and burning  braziers abounded. Curiously, none were in use, although the room was occupied. In the center sat a man tied to a chair, moaning in agony as second man read doggerel verse to him. The 'torturer' turned on the party and demanded to know what they wanted.  Apologizing, they stated they had gotten lost. But what, pray tell, was going on? The torturer explained the man in the chair was a poet, convicted of writing salacious and seditious verse about the Faceless Inquisitor. And his punishment was to spend 101 days listening to the worst poetry that could be found. With that, he turned back to reading to the moaning man, and the party decided leaving would be a good idea. Back up the stairs, they found the gallery oddly changed and unfamiliar; wasn't there a door over there before? Convinced now that Tiberian was right, they fumbled and stumbled around for awhile before finding their way back to the scribe, and then quickly made their way back outside. They would have to find another way besides brute exploratory force to find the stasis cube. 

Sitting down in a tavern to discuss, the party floated to idea of an aerial survey. But that was shot down as it didn't help them find the location of the cube. What they needed was to find someone with extensive knowledge and 'free passage' of the Palace, to pump them for information. What about the maintenance crew or cleaners? They might know. More inquires directed them to the west side of the Palace. Most of the cleaners and labourers lived in the adjacent Blackmilk district, and they would arrive and depart from that side of the Palace. The party set up shop there one morning to watch the process. Boatloads of people would arrive at one of several courtyards, to be met by overseers who would hand out their assignments for the day. The workers would then disappear into the mass of the Palace and re-appear at day's end to collect their pay and head home. They certainly seemed to have no trouble getting around and returning to their start point. The party decided to head into Blackmilk, find a tavern, and ask some questions. Doing so, they struct up a conversation with an old labourer by the name of Ricktor. His story of how they were able to operate in the Palace matched up with that of Tiberian the scribe; the Palace knew where they were supposed to be and would put up no obstacles in the way of their work. Given a description of the stasis cube, Ricktor seemed to recall seeing such a thing in his younger days, on display in one of the quaint little gardens of the Palace. He had no idea where that garden was; it hadn't been in his area of responsibility for 30 years.  But he called over a young custodian named Jord, who knew exactly the garden under discussion. It was now old and overgrown. And apparently dangerous, as he'd been warned not to enter it. He wasn't sure why. But he was able to give a brief description and point out the general location on a rough sketch map of the Palace. 

With that information in hand, Chaff and the ebony fly got invisible and performed a scan of the Palace from the air, locating the garden with relative ease. The vivmancer then returned to pick up the rest of the crew, Kwinsea riding the fly with him, while Rodrigo and Awg rode in the bag of holding. He landed them in the least overgrown space, a well-manicured lawn dotted with flowerbeds. Kwinsea then used the stole of the sacred to cast a locate object spell, which directed her to an adjacent structure which appeared to be a thickly overgrown octagonal greenhouse. There were several doors, but before any one could get too close, a weird voice came from one of the flower beds: "I wouldn't touch the doors. Dangerous, too dangerous". Looking for the source, the party was shocked to find it came from a 15' foot long pink worm with the face of a man. Questioning the odd creature (Germander by name) , they learned first of all that he was responsible for the lovely garden they'd landed in. The worm also explained the reason for his warning; the doors were covered in a spongy fungus which will explode with an astounding blast if disturbed. Unlikely to cause harm, be definitely will attract the attention of someone or something awful. They party didn't question  the 'awful' part much, but instead turned to figure out the doors. In the end, Kwinsea braved the stole once more and cast silence 15' radius on one door. Rodrigo then bravely (and silently) opened the portal, revealing a vine chocked interior. The vines started to move, and in moments some of the tendrils had assumed the form of a woman's face. It came close to the swashbuckler, and seemed to pucker up for a kiss. Assuming it was his turn to take one of the team, Rodrigo complied. The experience left him with the faint taste of dandelion in his mouth, but the vine-lady then dispersed. This opened up the centre of the greenhouse, where Rodrigo immediately spied the stasis cube sitting on a fluted column.  He scooped this up, and then with a final farewell to Germander, the party alighted on the fly once more and headed for the "No Man's Sea. Once aboard, they instructed Lynessa to put to sea immediately, she having been pre-warned to have everything ready to go on a moments notice. 


Following the directions provided by Gervis. the "No Man's sea sailed south for an unevertful week and a half, finding themselves amidst the truly tropical Isles of Endless Smoke. Finding the isle in question was easy, and they were soon circumnavigating the small jungle island. Apart from the thick growth, the outstanding feature was the great grey monolithic tower which stood on a series of bare hills at the north-east end of the island.  Here, they hoped, they would find "The Null". 

TOTAL XP
0

GAINS
Stasis Cube

KILLS/VICTORIES
None

LOSSES
None

Friday, November 2, 2018

Far Isles Session # 96 - Empyrius at Last

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 7)
Chaff (Vivimancer 7), with familiar Pretty Bird, and riding dog, Puppy Whuppy
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 7), with familiar Hermes
Sgt. Wilhelm (Musketeer 2) [NPC]

They waited under the dome for about a day, but nothing happened. The party crowded once more around the bowl to ponder further steps. Kwinsea took a closer look at the seeds, and determined they were ordinary pomegranate seeds which ranged from relatively fresh to long desiccated. Chaff decided to eat a few, a difficult task given his mouth full of broken teeth. But they had no effect. Kwinsea then wandered back through the sand dunes to find a crab to speak with, to learn more about the comings and goings around the structure. The crab, in his crabby way, confirmed that the Firebird Amazons came to visit on their giant flying snakes, no more than once a moon. One would go over to the bowl, drop something in and then the whole structure would sink into the sands. The others would wait, and anywhere from hours to days later the structure would rise once more, the departed amazon re-emerge, and all would fly away once more. Asked when the last visit had occurred, the crab indicated almost two moons ago. Based on that information, they party once more tried to search and poke around the bowl, even going so far as to take out seeds and drop them back in again. But still to no avail. After some discussion, they decided the best way to proceed was to go to the translucent bubble structure which they assumed was the Firebird Amazon lair. There they could search for the elusive pomegranate tree and/or approach the amazons and ask for help. 

The party headed back to the ship, sailed up the coast a short jaunt to get closer to the bubbles, and then headed to shore once more. They decided to approach openly, in the hope the amazons would see they meant no hostile intent. After an hour or so crossing the island and climbing the low pine covered ridge that ran down the centre, the bubble structure appeared in a clearing a couple of hundred yards ahead. They didn't get much closer before a four amazons appeared from behind the structure. Three fanned out with javelins at the ready to cover the approaching party, while the fourth  stepped forward and called on the party (in Terocolidian) to halt and state their business. Chaff spoke up in answer, and explained the party meant to harm and wished only for assistance to deliver a message to the great Empyrius from some of his  former colleagues. The spokes-amazon (Hestiphalis) was brusquely non-committal until Chaff let slip something about helping Empyrius escape the mists. At that Hestiphalis became enraged, shouting that none shall take the Adonian from them.  As her three companions trotted forward to launch their missiles at the party, she raised hands and chanted a spell. Awg and Wilhelm were immediately paralyzed in place. Chaff rushed forward to get in closer range for a spell, while Kwinsea used the stole of the sacred to successfully cast silence 15' radius on Hestiphalis. The aquamancer then followed up with a seasong which dropped the three javelin wielding amazons into slumber. Realizing now she was outclassed, Hestiphalis turned and ran, outpacing the puffing Chaff and disappearing  once more behind the bubbles.  

Kwinsea once more risked the stole to dispel the hold on Awg and Wilhelm. Seeing no hope of willing help from the amazons now, the party decided to kidnap one of the sleeping women and take her back to the ship to interrogate. Just as they prepared to do so, however, trouble appeared in the distance. Three amazons on flying snakes appeared over the bubbles, headed straight for the party. Looking to fly away as well, Chaff would use the ebony fly  to carry himself and their captive away. Kwinsea had a potion of flying, while Chaff planned to use the wand of flying on Awg and Wilhelm. Unfortunately the wand crumbled after using it on Awg, which would have meant abandoning the dour musketeer to his fate. Awg gallantly refused to  leave Wilhelm behind, so Chaff passed over the ring of invisibility and cast a transparency spell, hoping to two could avoid capture and make their way back to the shore and the ships boat. Luckily, the two made it, even though the woods around them soon filled with Firebird Amazons beating the bushes to find them. 

As for the aerial pursuit, Chaff, Kwinsea and captive made it back to the ship well ahead of the amazons. Chaff first of all sent all the male crew below, then slapped their captive (Isabella) awake and cast mind slave to charm and question her. With the two flying snakes fast approaching, Chaff asked that Isabella intercede on their behalf and convince her sisters that they meant no harm and just wanted to talk to Empyrius. The enthralled  amazon was more than happy to comply, and shouted to those now hovering overhead. She talked back and forth with the leader (Ianthinia), and seemed to convince her the party was safe. Her flying snake landed on the deck (the others remaining overhead) and Ianthinia alighted to talk (through the grovelling Chaff) to the obvious leader, Kwinsea. The details were a little opaque, but it seemed that  the Firebird Amazons relied on Empryius to perpetuate the species. Generally every couple of months, when the stars were right, one of the selected amazons would go to the dome to be with Empyrius.  The time was actually now nigh, so the party asked if they could use the opportunity to come along and try meeting with the Adonian. Ianthina noted that neither of her sisters were ready, but Empyrius might be interested in someone new i.e. Kwinsea. Recalling that Chaff once had to 'take one for the team' with the Pale Lady, she agreed to the plan.

Accompanied by the Firebirds, the party returned to the pavilion. They cleaned up Kwinsea and made her presentable, then handed her a single pomegranate seed and told her to drop it into the bowl. Then everyone else left to wait outside in the dunes. The structure settled in a smooth motion until the edge of the dome was level with the sand. At the bottom, Kwinsea found herself faced with a set of red and white stone doors, guarded by a monstrosity of a cyclops. Curiously, it had what looked light a metal helmet in place of its head, and when it turned to face the aquamancer, a beam of light emanated from its eye to illuminate her. A few moments later she observed another face in eye looking back at her; a round, fleshy, man's face. After watching her for a minute, the face disappeared and the cyclops pulled a key out of it's waist band. It unlocked the door, then led Kwinsea into a short tunnel to another door Which he obligingly unlocked and moved out of the way for her to pass through. She found herself in a wide corridor lined with polished copper plates and illuminated by crystal lanterns. Here awaiting the man she'd seen in the cyclops eye, who gestured her forward down the corridor and through yet another door. Once through, Kwinsea found herself in a garden with trees, a placid pool, and a path. All illuminated from above by a warm, yellow glow. She followed the path and around some trees, there coming up a blanket and pillows laid out on the ground. Standing there was a god-like figure, small wings on his back, and naked but for a layer of gold dust. This then, she established, was Empyrius. Apart from establishing that fact, and gloating over his own majesty, Empyrius would entertain no questions until other matters had been attended too ...

... Once the opportunity to talk arose, Kwinsea learned a few things from Empyrius. In addition to having an immensely over-inflated opinion of himself, he was also quite content in his leisurely existence as the 'father' of the Firebird Amazons. Unlike his fellow Adonians who seemed to have driven themselves to insanity in attempts to escape the mists, he had no desire to leave. He admitted he had no means to beat the mist, and explained that it was some type of abstract intelligence from between the stars that fed on magical energies. It traveled the universes, looking for places of deep magical power, then separated them from their world to join the collection of lands the party knew as the "Far Isles". The mist would drop these lands onto a new world, then lift and search that globe for another source of magical energy to collect and feed off. The only way to stop it would be an anti-magic shield or mask of some sort, to block it's 'view' of the arcane emanations. But no mortal magic would due, since even the magnificent Empyrius could not deal with the mist. It would require power on the level of the gods themselves to do the trick.

Having learned all she could, Kwinsea made her goodbyes to the magnificent Empyrius, promising to return some day. She then worked her way back past the guardians and back up to rejoin the party. She explained all she'd learned, and assured the Firebird Amazons that they were now done with Empyrius and would be on their way. Turning the charmed Isabella over to her sisters, the party headed back to the "No Man's Sea" and prepared to sail for Xin to rest, recuperate, restock and plan what to do from here. After an uneventful passage (and a 6% customs fee), they found themselves a week later tying up to the docks of the Fogbound Quays. 

TOTAL XP
12900 each [PC's]**
200 [Wilhelm]**

GAINS
Gold dust from Empyrius (10gp)

KILLS/VICTORIES
3 Firebird Amazons [defeated/captured]

LOSSES
None

** for finding Empyrius

Monday, October 22, 2018

Shakespearean Insult Kit




I don't really recall why I made this table; some random conversation on G+ I would guess. Anyway, posting it here so it doesn't get lost in the doom that came to G+. Simply roll d100 three times to generate an appropriately colourful insult for your favorite D&D-ish  game. Or real life; who am I to tell you what to do?







Shakespearean Insult Kit


1-2
artless
base-court
apple-john
3-4
bawdy
bat-fowling
baggage
5-6
beslubbering
beef-witted
barnacle
7-8
bootless
beetle-headed
bladder
9-10
churlish
boil-brained
boar-pig
11-12
cockered
clapper-clawed
bugbear
13-14
clouted
clay-brained
bum-bailey
15-16
craven
common-kissing
canker-blossom
17-18
currish
crook-pated
clack-dish
19-20
dankish
dismal-dreaming
clotpole
21-22
dissembling
dizzy-eyed
coxcomb
23-24
droning
doghearted
codpiece
25-26
errant
dread-bolted
death-token
27-28
fawning
earth-vexing
dewberry
29-30
fobbing
elf-skinned
flap-dragon
31-32
froward
fat-kidneyed
flax-wench
33-34
frothy
fen-sucked
flirt-gill
35-36
gleeking
flap-mouthed
foot-licker
37-38
goatish
fly-bitten
fustilarian
39-40
gorbellied
folly-fallen
giglet
41-42
impertinent
fool-born
gudgeon
43-44
infectious
full-gorged
haggard
45-46
jarring
guts-griping
harpy
47-48
loggerheaded
half-faced
hedge-pig
49-50
lumpish
hasty-witted
horn-beast
51-52
mammering
hedge-born
hugger-mugger
53-54
mangled
hell-hated
joithead
55-56
mewling
idle-headed
lewdster
57-58
paunchy
ill-breeding
lout
59-60
pribbling
ill-nurtured
maggot-pie
61-62
puking
knotty-pated
malt-worm
63-64
puny
milk-livered
mammet
65-66
qualling
motley-minded
measle
67-68
rank
onion-eyed
minnow
69-70
reeky
plume-plucked
miscreant
71-72
roguish
pottle-deep
moldwarp
73-74
ruttish
pox-marked
mumble-news
75-76
saucy
reeling-ripe
nut-hook
77-78
spleeny
rough-hewn
pigeon-egg
79-80
spongy
rude-growing
pignut
81-82
surly
rump-fed
puttock
83-84
tottering
shard-borne
pumpion
85-86
unmuzzled
sheep-biting
ratsbane
87-88
vain
spur-galled
scut
89-90
venomed
swag-bellied
skainsmate
91-92
villainous
tardy-gaited
strumpet
93-94
warped
tickle-brained
varlot
95-96
wayward
toad-spotted
vassal
97-98
weedy
unchin-snouted
whey-face
99-00
yeasty
weather-bitten
wagtail