Monday, February 24, 2020

Comes with the Terrain

Ogre Lair, Great Dungeon of the North.

I am a sucker for using figures and terrain for tabletop RPGs. I appreciate the “Theatre of the Mind” approach, but left to my own devices I prefer to have some sort of grid, particularly for complex encounters. Over the years I’ve experimented with a lot of different solutions, but have’t found the perfect solution.

I own a pretty decent set of Dwarven Forge terrain and I think it’s great stuff: sturdy and very attractive to the eye. But it’s also expensive and fairly cumbersome to schlep around. And you really have to organize those components so you can assemble the dungeon as quickly as possible. This can be fine if you have a smaller, set dungeon: you just bring the components you need. But with a megadungeon, when you might have players frequently running off the map, it’s a drag to halt play while you locate and assemble the necessary pieces.

Dungeon Tiles have the benefit of being fairly inexpensive and fairly portable. They also look pretty decent, to boot. But they have similar problems as Dwarven Forge, in that you have to organize the tiles to allow quick assembly and even then it can be easy to slow down the game to hunt for the right component. They also tend to inadvertently slide around on the table without some sort of stickum material to hold them in place.

Much easier, then, to have a blank gridded surface to draw on. It doesn’t look nearly as good as Dwarven Forge or Dungeon Tiles, but it has the distinct advantage of speed. I have a couple of Chessex Battlemats that I like very much: these are rollable, heavy fabric mats that come in both hexes and grids. The biggest downside is that they need to be fairly large, but are sometimes too large to fit on a kitchen table cluttered with game books, dice, character sheets, miniatures, and so on.

I loved the original Tact-Tiles, which were heavy plastic interlocking tiles that could be connected together to create grids that fit whatever open space was available. They used wet or dry erase markers and were easy to assemble and clean. I got a ton of use out of my set, which I considered one of the better game investments I ever made. Unfortunately, the original company that made this product stopped making them, so they were hard to come by for several years. They were also fairly heavy to lug around.

Battle in the Streets of Waterdeep.

Enter the Role 4 Initiative Dry-Erase Dungeon Tiles. I got a set for Christmas and finally had a chance to try them out this last weekend. They work very much like the old Tact-Tiles, but they are made of heavy duty chip board—so they are far lighter. They also have smaller sized (5 x 5) tiles, so they are a little more flexible.

We used these for a session of our Out of the Abyss game, as the party explored the Underdark looking for the duergar city of Gracklstugh. And we also used them for a couple of sessions of the Waterdeep Dragon Heist game, as we fought a couple of pitched street battles in the City of Splendors.

Long story short, these new tiles worked great. They had all of the advantages of the old Tact-Tiles but with none of the disadvantages.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Umber Hulk Smash!

Consider the Umber Hulk: an intelligent brute with a bizarre appearance and unusual special attack. In early versions of Dungeons and Dragons they were fairly tough monsters, showing up on lower level encounter tables alongside purple worms and vampires.

As I was prepping an encounter for my Out of the Abyss game, I realized I didn’t have an umber hulk figure that I really liked: although several have been produced over the years, none quite seemed to work for me. As it happened, on my next trip to the game store I spied a model that nearly fit the bill: a WizKids Umber Hulk, part of their D&D Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures line.

To prepare for painting the umber hulk I reviewed past depictions of this monster, which debuted all the way back in Greyhawk (1976):

Of shape somewhat similar to human, an Umber Hulk can be mistaken in the dark for something less deadly than it really is. Typically they are 8’ tall, 5’ wide, with heads resembling bushel baskets, and gaping maws flanked by pairs of exceedingly sharp mandibles. It travels about on two legs. If it is viewed squarely its four eyes cause confusion . . . Its claws are harder than iron, causing terrible damage when used as weapons, but they are used primarily by the beast for burrowing through rock . . . They prize highly human flesh.

Not much here for a color guide other than the name. The umber hulk’s strange appearance and lack of any obvious literary inspiration suggest that the monster may have, like the owlbear or bulette, been based on a dime store plastic toy, but Tony DiTerlizzi doubts this theory.

Although included in the Monster and Treasure Assortment (1977), the umber hulk didn’t make the Holmes Basic set, and thus wasn’t included in the subsequent Moldvay/Cook edition. But the umber hulk did appear in the AD&D Monster Manual (1977):

Umber hulks are black, shading to yellowish gray on the front. Their head is gray on top, and the mandibles are ivory colored. Because of their dark color they can easily be mistaken for some humanoid creature at 40’ or more distance.

You know what’s interesting about that description? There’s no mention of umber or a color resembling umber. I wonder if perhaps Gygax confused “umber” with “umbral”? In any case, he does amend the description in The Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Coloring Album (1979):

The umber hulk has deep reddish or blackish brown back, arms and legs, fading to a yellowish brown on chest and belly. Below a maroon ridge its large faceted eyes shine light blue, while the small central eyes are dark green. The monster’s mandibles and talons are gray-ivory, its teeth dingy yellow and its mouth yellow green.

Erol Otus certainly seemed to follow the description from the Monster Manual when he painted this striking version for the AD&D Monster Cards, Set 2 (1982):

Unfortunately Otus didn’t paint the rest of the monster. The problem with these early versions of the umber hulk was that the beetle-like head was usually placed on top of a pro-wrestler body.

Jim Holloway’s illustration for 2e Monstrous Compendium, Volume One (1989) does a good job of adding a suitable body: I really like the stocky, rhino-hide appearance, and Ral Partha had a nice miniature sculpted by Dennis Mize based on this art.

DiTerlizzi followed Holloway pretty closely when he illustrated the umber hulk for the Monstrous Manual (1993), but with one exception: he put little antennae on umber hulks. I loathe this development, which makes these murder machines look a little too cute and bug-like. Unfortunately, 3e would double down on the bug-like look for the Monster Manual (2000), and spindly, bug-like umber hulks would be carried into both 4e and 5e. Umber hulks were one of the few classic D&D monsters not released under the Open Game License, and as such never made it into the Pathfinder game.

At least three pre-painted umber hulk miniatures have been produced, for Harbinger D&D Miniatures (2003), Desert of Desolation D&D Miniatures (2007), and D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie (2016). In addition, Gale Force 9 produced a resin collector’s edition sculpted by Clavilier Gregory. Unfortunately, all of these models are too thin and goofy for my liking.

The WizKids unpainted figure is a bit more substantial and hulky, with massive claws and enormous mandibles. This looks like an umber hulk that could actually burrow through rock! It’s got a nice, dramatic pose although the best angle is probably from below looking up at its face. I am not a big fan of the head, which is too small and bug-like for my taste, and I don’t like the weird eyes or antennae. I’d really like to see a return to a big, bushel-barrel type head with compound eyes.

But that criticism aside, this is still a fine sculpt that was a lot of fun to paint. I hadn’t had a chance to work on anything for several months, so this was a nice model to begin with. The primer coat seemed a bit lighter and there were fewer mold lines on my model, which was nice. I used the 1e Monster Manual, the AD&D Coloring Album, and the Otus painting as my primary guides for painting the figure. All-in-all, I was pretty happy with how the miniature came out.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Stock in Trade: Typical Traveller NPCs

One of the best things about Traveller is the sheer simplicity of the system, making it very easy to improvise NPCs as needed. That said, I much prefer to run combat encounters with all of the relevant game information ready and near at hand. Even The Traveller Book had a useful roster of pre-generated NPCs that I still pull out on occasion.

Because many Traveller games are sandbox in nature—meaning any one session can go almost anywhere, including into a heated combat—one of the few things I find sorely missing from the Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook is a roster of typical NPCs.

Quick NPC Creation for Mongoose Traveller

Because risky, random character generation is such an important part of the Traveller experience, I know that many referees insist on generating each and every NPC individually just like a PC. I certainly appreciate and even admire the dedication: one of the great joys of the game is letting the dice hand us interesting and unexpected twists that we then need to address.

But—and maybe I’m simply lazy—rarely do I have an afternoon to roll up 200 characters in order to generate just one ship’s captain or army colonel. Even then it can be hard to get the results without fudging rolls: and if I need to do a little fudging to get what I want, why not just fully embrace NPC creation rather than random generation?

When I have a known, desired outcome for an NPC, I begin with one of four standard arrays and then assign the associated scores to characteristics as necessary.

Standard Arrays
Citizen Category Average Score Characteristic Array
Below Average 6 8, 7, 6, 6, 5, 4
Average 7 9, 8, 7, 7, 6, 5
Above Average 8 10, 9, 8, 8, 7, 6
Exceptional 9 11, 10, 9, 9, 8, 7

For a bunch of young street hoods, I might use the Below Average array and assign them the UPP 586764. Then I’d adjust characteristics up or down a point as desired.

I then establish the number of terms the NPC served, which in turn drives how many skills they should have. Depending on character generation rolls, the numbers and levels of skills can vary widely, but Mongoose Traveller seems to average about 2 skill levels per term plus a handful of 0 level skills. The following table provides guidelines for how many skills of what level a typical NPC should possess:

Average Skill Levels by Term
ExperienceTerms Number of Skills by Skill Level
3 2 1 0
Recruit0 0 0 0 4
1 0 0 2 4
Regular2 0 1 2 4
3 0 2 2 5
Veteran4 0 3 2 5
Elite5 1 2 3 6

The levels can be assigned to whatever skill makes sense and then adjusted up or down a point as desired. Similarly, a couple more or a couple less zero-level skills probably don’t matter all that much.

One of the benefits of this approach is you can customize the skills assigned without worrying about which homeworld or career gives out what skills. Our street hoods probably haven’t completed even one term, so I’d give them 4 zero-level skills: Athletics 0, Carouse 0, Melee 0, Streetwise 0.

Finally, I just assign equipment and money based on role and associated organizations. The street hoods wouldn’t have battle dress or gauss rifles, but they might have jack armor, a knife, and maybe Cr50.

NPCs created through this method are generally going to be somewhat more competent and focused than those produced through random generation, but should not be significantly superior to PCs who served comperable numbers of terms. Mongoose Traveller has a couple of rules for group character generation that help provide players with some control over skills and skill levels.

Typical NPCs

Perhaps due to the long tradition of individually generating each NPC, generic statblocks for typical NPCs seem fairly rare in Traveller. Personally, I find them extremely handy. They can be quickly adapted for different uses, and they help establish baselines for the game: the huscarles of a minor baron, for example, probably shouldn’t be better equipped than active duty Imperial Marines.

Traveller’s metafictional mixing of game mechanics and in-setting infromation is extremely endearing. Instead of a character sheet you fill out “TAS Form 2 - Personal Data and History.” But for an NPC statblock I do prefer a more utilitarian approach that drops the metafiction and provides the game stats directly: No UPP, just a list of characteristics and their modifiers, putting damage and game traits next to weapon descriptions.

The following NPCs represent fairly typical characters that might be encountered anywhere in Charted Space, as well as a few interesting character types more specific to my Magyar sector. The emphasis is on typical NPCs that might be involved in a combat encounter.

One final note: the Sachsen combat robot is based on the Huscarloid from the Traveller5 fanzine Xboat 2.

Agilitrix Red
Synthetic Human Guard
Str 8, Dex 9 (+1), End 12 (+2), Int 6, Edu 0 (-3), Soc 0 (-3)
Skills Athletics (endurance) 1, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Investigate 1, Medic 1, Melee (unarmed) 1, Recon 1, Streetwise 0
Possessions autopistol (3D-3), enhanced vision, subdermal armor (+4), wafer jack
Enhanced Vision Cybernetic eyes give the synthetic permanent functionality of a set of binoculars and IR/Light Intensifier goggles and the ability to see into the ultraviolet part of the spectrum.
Comments Agilitrix is a sector-wide principal member of the Wuan Technology Association with headquarters on Uston (Daibei 0139 A100A98-E) and famed for its Spectrum line, now in its fifth generation, which represent some of the most commonly encountered androids in Magyar and Dark Nebula. Spectrum models are designed with exaggerated physical characteristics for easy identification: these androids resemble well-built humans without hair, navels, or sexual organs, their skin dyed with clearly artificial pigments.
Alvin Y Guest Clone
Vat-Grown
Str 10 (+1), Dex 5 (-1), End 10 (+1), Int 9 (+1), Edu 10 (+1), Soc 6
Skills Athletics 0, Explosives 2, Gun Combat (slug) 3, Heavy Weapons (artillery) 1, Leadership 1, Medic 0, Melee (blade) 1, Pilot 0, Recon 1, Stealth 0, Survival 0, Tactics (military) 2
Possessions combat armor (+17), advanced combat rifle (3D, Auto 3, Scope)
Comments Alvin Y is a Solomani guest soldier well-suited for combat roles: physically strong and resilient, but experienced with military tactics. A product of NewGenAssist, the guest’s pattern served four tours in the Confederation Army.
Aslan Bodyguard
4 terms
Str 11 (+1), Dex 6, End 11 (+1) , Int 9 (+1), Edu 7, Soc 8
Skills Athletics (endurance), Drive 0, Flyer 0, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Investigate 0, Medic 0, Melee (natural) 2, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1, Survival 0
Possessions cloth armor (+8), subdermal armor (+1), submachine gun (3D, Auto 3), wafer jack
Dewclaw All Aslan have a dewclaw that can be extended to make for a vicious close combat weapon. The dewclaw uses the Melee (natural) skill and does 1D+2 damage.
Heightened Senses Aslan have better night vision, hearing and sense of smell than humans. All Aslan receive DM+1 to any Recon and Survival checks they have to make.
Comments Male Aslan are highly prized by Imperial nobles and executives in Magyar sector as personal guards.
Assailant
2 terms
Str 7, Dex 9 (+1), End 5 (-1), Int 5 (-1), Edu 4 (-1), Soc 3 (-1)
Skills Athletics 0, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Gambler 0, Melee (blade) 2, Recon 1, Stealth 0, Streetwise 1
Possessions jack (+1), blade (2D)
Money Cr50
Comments Assailants are a typical threat on low Law Level worlds.
Barbarian
2 terms
Str 8, Dex 7, End 9 (+1), Int 7, Edu 4 (-1), Soc 5 (-1)
Skills Animals (any) 1, Athletics 0, Carouse 0, Melee (blade) 2, Navigation 0, Profession (any) 1, Recon 0, Seafarer 0, Stealth 0, Survival 2
Possessions blade (2D)
Money Cr100
Comments Low-tech Imperial worlds in Magyar include Lontarelli (Magyar 2801 X563797-2), Rouern (Magyar 3213 D5568DC-4), and Waxstetter (Magyar 2605 X550210-3).
Bounty Hunter
4 terms
Str 8, Dex 9 (+1), End 7, Int 9 (+1), Edu 7, Soc 5 (-1)
Skills Admin 0, Carouse 0, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Investigate 2, Melee (unarmed) 2, Persuade 1, Stealth 0, Streetwise 2
Possessions ceramic carapace (+10, +16 against lasers, fire), autopistol (3D-3), stunstick (2D, stun), 4 stun grenades (3D, Blast 9, Stun)
Money Cr2,000
Comments Bounty hunters find people who don’t want to be found: bail jumpers, escaped criminals, merchants who “skip out” on scheduled starship payments, and fugitives of all kinds. Hunters take custody and escort the fugitive to the nearest legal authority.
Brigand
2 terms
Str 6, Dex 8, End 7, Int 5 (-1), Edu 4 (-1), Soc 3 (-1)
Skills Carouse 0, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Flyer 0, Gun Combat (slug) 2, Stealth 1, Streetwise 0, Recon 1
Possessions jack (+1), body pistol (3D-3)
Money Cr100
Comments Brigands can include anything from common stickup men to shakedown artists to hijackers.
Colonist
2 terms
Str 7, Dex 7, End 8, Int 7, Edu 6, Soc 7
Skills Athletics (strength) 1, Drive 0, Gun Combat 0, Jack-of-All-Trades 1, Mechanic 0, Medic 0, Profession 0, Survival 2
Possessions laser carbine (4D, zero-g)
Money Cr500
Comments Despite being continually inhabited for millennia, Magyar sector contains a large number of low-population, marginally habitable worlds ripe for colonization.
Confederation Jump Trooper
3 terms
Str 9 (+1), Dex 8, End 10 (+1), Int 6, Edu 7, Soc 8
Skills Athletics (dexterity) 1, Gun Combat (slug) 2, Heavy Weapons 0, Melee 0, Navigation 0, Stealth 0, Survival 0, Tactics (military) 1, Vacc Suit 2
Possessions battle dress (+22, Stealth +2), gauss rifle (4D, AP 5, Auto 3, Scope)
Comments Jump Troops are orbital paratroopers in battle dress trained to assault planetary targets by freefalling from orbit in personal jump capsules. They also serve as the most elite light infantry divisions in the Solomani Confederation Army, both highly trained and politically reliable. The Army maintains six Jump Grav Divisions in Magyar sector: the 115th “Popov Division” at Clown (1807 B431975-E), the 156th “Slavic Division” at Tarn (1209 A747220-D), the 202nd “Dootchen Division” at Voetsak (1815 B7B8899-B), the 277th at Uebelhor (1324 A566877-C), the 282nd at Daftrew (0903 B78A878-C), and the 327th at Dewal (0931 BA98978-C). The elite 277th, also known as the 1st Ceti Volunteers, is a reconstructed unit that had formerly been based on Beagle (3129 D766A99-A) but was destroyed during the Solomani Rim War.
Corporate Assassin
4 terms
Str 7, Dex 12 (+2), End 10 (+1), Int 11 (+1), Edu 8, Soc 6
Skills Athletics 0, Deception 1, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Explosives 0, Gun Combat (slug) 2, Investigate 0, Melee (blade) 2, Recon 1, Stealth 2, Streetwise 0
Possessions lightweight polycarapace (+12, IR chameleon), gauss pistol (3D, AP3, Auto 2), monoblade (3D, AP 10), neural comm, combat drugs
Comments Should a megacorporation wish to send a message, they employ only the best messengers.
Corsair
3 terms
Str 8, Dex 9 (+1), End 8, Int 8, Edu 6, Soc 4 (-1)
Skills Athletics (dexterity) 1, Deception 0, Explosives 0, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Mechanic 0, Melee (any) 2, Persuade 2, Pilot 0, Vacc Suit 1
Possessions vacc suit (+4), SMG (3D, Auto 3)
Money Cr750
Comments Piracy, sometimes sponsored by governments or worlds, continues to plague shipping on both sides of the border in Magyar sector.
Customs Officer
2 terms
Str 7, Dex 8, End 7, Int 10 (+1), Edu 8, Soc 6
Skills Admin 1, Advocate 1, Animals 0, Diplomacy 0, Electronics 0, Gun Combat 0, Persuade 0, Streetwise 1
Possessions autopistol (3D-3)
Money Cr200
Comments Customs officers work for the Imperial Revenue Department, implementing duties, tariffs, and inspections at starports across the Imperium. They also work closely with Starport Authority personnel in combating smuggling and other attempts to circumvent Imperial regulations.
Imperial Line Marine
3 terms
Str 7, Dex 10 (+1), End 8, Int 9 (+1), Edu 6, Soc 8
Skills Athletics 0, Explosives 1, Gun Combat (energy) 2, Gunner 0, Heavy Weapons 0, Melee (blade) 1, Pilot 0, Tactics 0, Vacc Suit 2
Possessions battledress (+25, Grav Assist TL15, Stealth +3), FGMP-15 (2DD, bulky, radiation), cutlass (3D)
Comments The Imperial Marines are an elite force charged with making initial landings on hostile planets, boarding hostile vessels in deep space, and enforcing Imperial law, most notably violations of the Imperial Rules of War. The Imperial Marines have five regiments posted to Magyar: the 3,411th, 1,135th, 1,548th, 1,670th, and 4,497th Line Regiments.
Imperial Marine Commando
4 terms
Str 9 (+1), Dex 11 (+1), End 9 (+1), Int 10 (+1), Edu 8, Soc 7
Skills Athletics (strength) 1, Explosives 1, Gun Combat (energy) 2, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Language 0, Medic 0, Melee (unarmed) 2, Navigation 1, Recon 2, Stealth 1, Survival 2, Tactics 0, Vacc Suit 1
Possessions scout battledress (+23, Active Camouflage, Prismatic Aerosol, Sensor Suite +3), FGMP-15 (2DD, bulky, radiation), dagger (1D+2)
Comments Marine commandos are used for extreme-risk missions that are outside the normal scope of a Marine regiment. These missions include pinpoint assaults, “personnel retrieval,” or even attacks against Imperial nobles suspected of treason.
Infantry Soldier
3 terms
Str 8, Dex 8, End 10 (+1), Int 9 (+1), Edu 7, Soc 6
Skills Athletics 0, Gun Combat (slug) 2, Heavy Weapons 0, Melee (unarmed) 2, Navigation 0, Stealth 0, Survival 1, Recon 1, Vacc Suit 0
Possessions army combat armor (+19, Friend or Foe HUD, IR Chameleon), gauss rifle (4D, AP 5, Auto 3, Scope, Auxiliary Grenade Launcher), 6 fragmentation grenades (5D, blast 9)
Comments The grounds forces of the Imperium and the Solomani Confederation use similar equipment and tactics.
Jarslavi Cartel Enforcer
3 terms
Str 9 (+1), Dex 9 (+1), End 9 (+1), Int 7, Edu 6, Soc 8
Skills Athletics 0, Deception 0, Drive 0, Gun Combat (slug) 2, Melee (unarmed) 1, Persuade 2, Recon 0, Stealth 0, Streetwise 1
Possessions protec suit (+4), autorifle (3D, Auto 2), stunfist (1D+2, stun), ballistic tracking lenses, combat drug (2 doses)
Money Cr2,000
Comments The Jarslavi Cartel is a sprawling criminal network operating on both Solomani and Imperial worlds of Swan, New Mars, and Albadawi subsectors. Highly organized and disciplined, the Cartel engages in trafficking of arms, drugs, humans, and illegal tech.
Law Enforcer
2 terms
Str 7, Dex 9 (+1), End 7, Int 9 (+1), Edu 8, Soc 6
Skills Admin 1, Athletics 0, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Gun Combat 0, Investigate 0, Melee (unarmed) 2, Streetwise 1
Possessions ballistic vest (+4), autopistol (3D-3)
Money Cr200
Comments Even planetary governments with low Law Levels generally have some sort of law enforcement force.
Mercenary
3 terms
Str 8, Dex 7, End 9 (+1), Int 5 (-1), Edu 6, Soc 4 (-1)
Skills Athletics 0, Drive 0, Explosives 0, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Heavy Weapons 0, Melee (unarmed) 2, Recon 2, Stealth 1, Tactics 0
Possessions mesh armor (+2), autorifle (3D, Auto 2)
Comments The Imperium tolerates a fair number of low-intensity, localized wars, provided they never threaten the wider order. The Imperium intervenes only when conflicts may destabilize an entire region. Local governments or other groups hire mercenary units to fight other groups and other units.
Modesti Guest Clone
Vat-Grown
Str 8, Dex 6, End 9 (+1), Int 11 (+1), Edu 5 (-1), Soc 7
Skills Athletics (strength) 2, Deception 1, Diplomat 0, Drive (grav) 1, Electronics 0, Flyer 0, Gun Combat 0, Melee (unarmed) 3, Pilot 0, Recon 0, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1, Vacc Suit 0
Possessions gauss pistol (3D, AP 3, Auto 2), lightweight poly carapace (+12)
Comments Modesti is a female Solomani guest produced by ConTech, a tough and streetwise clone often employed as a bodyguard, courier, or enforcer. As Modesties are associated with illicit activities, they are occasionally banned altogether from Imperial worlds with Law Levels of 7 or higher.
Rogue
3 terms
Str 7, Dex 8, End 7, Int 8, Edu 6, Soc 5 (-1)
Skills Athletics 0, Deception 2, Electronics 0, Gambler 0, Gun Combat 0, Melee (any) 1, Persuade 0, Stealth 1, Streetwise 2
Possessions none
Money Cr1,000
Comments Rogues include a wide variety of criminals, confidence men, grifters, smugglers, and others engaged in illicit activities.
Sachsen Combat Robot
Panstellar (Solomani)
Hits 26
Speed 6m
Skills Melee (blade) 2, Gun Combat (slug) 1
Attacks ACR (3D, Auto 3, Scope), monoblade (3D, AP10)
Traits Armor (+14), Flyer (idle), Large Shield
Programming Basic (skirmisher)
Large Shield A Sachsen carries a large starship-armor-grade shield that cannot be used as a weapon. The shield increases the Sachsen’s effective Melee skill by +2 when parrying.
Comments The Sachsen is a TL13 humaniform combat robot designed to support Solomani armored cavalry units. A comm interface allows it to communicate covertly. The robot has standard hands and can hold human weapons. Sachsens have a sturdy construction and are sheathed in silvered armor that makes them vaguely resemble medieval knights.
Solomani Revolutionary
4 terms
Str 6, Dex 6, End 7, Int 10 (+1), Edu 12 (+2), Soc 3 (-1)
Skills Advocate 0, Deception 1, Diplomat 0, Drive 0, Electronics (comms) 2, Explosives 1, Flyer 0, Gun Combat 0, Leadership 1, Melee 0, Profession 0, Science (history) 1, Streetwise 1, Tactics (military) 1
Possessions cloth armor (+8), shotgun (4D, bulky), grenade launcher with 6 frag grenades (4D, blast 9)
Money Cr100
Comments Many Imperial worlds in Magyar are plagued by agitators and militants loyal to the Solomani Cause. Although some of these are home grown revolutionaries, many are sponsored by the Confederation Army or Solomani Security.
SolSec Agent
5 terms
Str 5 (-1), Dex 8, End 6, Int 8, Edu 10 (+1), Soc 10 (+1)
Skills Admin 0, Advocate 0, Athletics 0, Deception 3, Drive 0, Electronics (comms) 1, Flyer 0, Gun Combat 1 (slug), Investigate 2, Persuade 2, Recon 1, Stealth 0, Streetwise 0, Vacc Suit 0
Possessions assault pistol (3D-3, Auto 2), cloth armor (+8), wafer jack
Money Cr1,000
Comments Solomani Security is the secret police force and intelligence agency of the Solomani Confederation, charged with overseeing society and ensuring that all members of society pursue the Solomani Cause. SolSec agents have broad extralegal powers to monitor and detain any Confederation citizen who takes part in interstellar society, including military officers, merchants, important businessmen, local government officials, politically active citizens, and religious leaders.
Starport Security Officer
2 terms
Str 6, Dex 8, End 7, Int 9 (+1), Edu 9 (+1), Soc 6
Skills Admin 0, Electronics 0, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Investigate 2, Melee (unarmed) 1, Persuade 0, Streetwise 1
Possessions autopistol (3D-3), ballistic vest (+4)
Comments Major and many minor starports have their own security force.
Thug
2 terms
Str 10 (+1), Dex 4 (-1), End 10 (+1), Int 4 (-1), Edu 4 (-1), Soc 3 (-1)
Skills Athletics (strength) 2, Drive 0, Gambler 0, Melee (unarmed) 1, Melee (bludgeon) 1, Persuade 0, Streetwise 0
Possessions jack (+1), heavy cudgel (2D)
Money Cr100
Comments Thugs are often hired muscle or enforcers for criminal organizations.
Uplifted Ape Soldier
3 terms
Str 10 (+1), Dex 5 (-1), End 11 (+1), Int 6, Edu 5 (-1), Soc 3 (-1)
Skills Athletics (strength) 1, Drive 0, Gambler 1, Gun Combat (slug) 1, Heavy Weapons (artillery) 1, Leadership 1, Medic 1, Melee 0, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Tactics (military) 1
Possessions flak jacket (+5), assault shotgun (4D, Auto 2, Bulky), long blade (3D+3), 4 frag grenades (4D, blast 9)
Money Cr50
Uplifted This species was originally non-sentient, but has been raised to a higher intelligence by another species.
Comments Apes are genetically engineered intelligent animals created by ancient Terrans, a transgenic hybrid of gorilla, chimp, and some Human genes. Average height and mass are 1.6 meters and 100 kilograms. Apes possess the same linguistic capabilities as an ordinary Human. Several million uplifted apes currently live on Solomani and Imperial worlds.
Wanderer
4 terms
Str 6, Dex 7, End 8, Int 8, Edu 7, Soc 6
Skills Carouse 0, Deception 0, Drive 0, Gun Combat 0, Mechanic 0, Melee (unarmed) 1, Profession 0, Recon 1, Stealth 1, Steward 1, Streetwise 2, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 1
Possessions none
Money Cr800
Comments Wanderers are typical Travellers within Charted Space, moving from system to system in search of jobs and adventure.

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Clones for Mongoose Traveller

Clones and cloning have appeared in Traveller at least as early as the Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society 2 (1979). The MT adventure Arrival Vengance has clone NPCs and clone themes. The TNE Regency Sourcebook has several Library Data entries on clones. GURPS Traveller: Nobles has a discussion of clones and inheritances. And Mongoose Traveller’s Pirates of Drinax adventure has several clone NPCs.

But I believe Traveller5 is the first edition to provide detailed rules on how to generate and use clones. And Agent of the Imperium integrates clones into the fabirc of the Third Imperium. The concept is useful and interesting enough to gank for Mongoose Traveller.

Clone Creation

A typical TL13 clone production line.

A clone is a biological copy of an existing being, known as a pattern, and created using the pattern’s own genetic material. Most clones are produced in artificial wombs called metabolic chambers; such clones are sometimes called vat-grown. Some clones follow a normal gestation period, after which they are removed from the chamber and allowed to mature normally like any naturally-born child. The metabolic chamber can also be used to accelerate growth to about one year per week. This forced growth process allows for the creation of adult clones, though this technique also accelerates the aging pattern of the clone.

A force-grown clone body has no developed personality, though it is possible to implant a recorded personality, skills, and memories into the clone’s brain. The implant may be an unaltered recording copied from the pattern, or the implant may be selectively edited to remove memories or shape the personality to better support the clone’s intended purpose.

Generating Characteristics

Clones resemble their pattern in many ways but often exhibit subtle or not-so-subtle differences. Even individual clones from the same batch may have different scores in some characteristics.

Strength, Dexterity, and Endurance: A clone's physical characteristic scores are generated by throwing 1D and referencing the following table.

Clone Characteristic Scores
Pattern
Characteristic
Score
1D Roll
123456
2-234567
3–4345678
5–6456789
7–85678910
9–1067891011
11+789101112

For example, a pattern has a Strength of 14. Throwing 1D generates a 3, so consulting the “11+” line results in a clone Strength of 9.

Intelligence: A clone that does not receive a personality implant generates an Intelligence score just as with a physical characteristic, by throwing 1D and consulting the “Clone Characteristic Scores” table. A clone that does receive a personality implant uses the same Intelligence score as the pattern, but scores below 2 are raised to 2 and scores above 12 are lowered to 12.

Education and Social Standing: These characteristics do not have genetic components. A clone that does not receive a personality transplant generates these characteristics with 2D just like a new character. A clone that does receive a personality implant uses the same Education and Social Standing scores as the pattern, though scores below 2 are raised to 2 and scores above 12 are lowered to 12.

Other Traits

Skills: A clone that does not receive a personality implant has no skills. A clone that does receive a personality implant receives all the skills and skill levels of the pattern.

Aging: Clones that were force-grown to a physical age of 18 begin making aging checks at age 26 instead of 34.

Guest Clones

Guest Clones are deliberately-created clones intended to be cheap laborers. A guest is a skilled duplicate of the pattern, lacking only the memories of the original. A suitable pattern provides genetic material samples, and personality and skill recordings. Guests are then force-grown and implanted with an edited recorded personality and skills. Although memories are supposed to be edited out of the personality, the process sometimes fails. Guests are typically sterilized when created, and many have physical markings that clearly designate their status.

The legal status of guest clones within the Imperium and the Solomani Confederation is often unclear, and individual worlds may grant expanded or restricted rights to guests. Imperial law considers permanent, uncompensated labor to be the equivalent of chattel slavery, but has repeatedly found that indentured labor is acceptable provided the term of service is delimited and the guest receives “reasonable” compensation and treatment.

Costs of Guests

Factories sell guest clones—or more properly, indenture contracts for guest clones—singly or in batches. These contracts generally range from 4 to 8 years in length, and may be purchased outright for Cr182,000 or can be financed for Cr36,000 down and monthly payments based on the term in years:

Clone Payments
Term (Years)Monthly
Payment (Cr)
43,640
52,912
62,696
72,311
82,022

Indentures can be sold, traded, or bought out early if the owner wishes. In any case, each clone is legally obligated to fulfill the terms of the indenture to the best of its ability. Once the indenture is complete guests are freed from further service. Although rare, escaped guests that are still under contract are subject to repatriation and may be hunted by bounty hunters.

Because the guest clone inherits an edited personality scan of its pattern, the clone has the same scores for all three mental characteristics (Intelligence, Education, and Social Standing) as the pattern. The guest also has the same skill levels.

Guests in Magyar

Although there are countless varieties of guests in Magyar and Dark Nebula sectors, a few clones are reasonably common in this region:

Alvin Y is a Solomani guest soldier well-suited for combat roles: physically strong and resilient, but experienced with military tactics. A product of NewGenAssist, the guest’s pattern served four terms in the Confederation Army. Str=[6+1D] Dex=[2+1D] End=[6+1D] Int=9 Edu=10 Soc=6; Athletics 0, Explosives 2, Gun Combat (slug) 3, Heavy Weapons (artillery) 1, Leadership 1, Medic 0, Melee (blade) 1, Pilot 0, Recon 1, Stealth 0, Survival 0, Tactics (military) 2.

Cymene is a resourceful Solomani guest laborer able to thrive on the harshest of colony worlds. A product of ConTech, her pattern spent eight years building up a new colony on a cold desert planet, even marrying and raising a family. Occasionally a Cymene will inadvertently remember details from that past life, one of the few known flaws in an otherwise remarkably reliable clone. Str=[5+1D] Dex=[3+1D] End=[6+1D] Int=9 Edu=8 Soc=7; Animals (veterinary) 1, Athletics 0, Drive 0, Flyer 0, Mechanic 0, Navigate 0, Profession (agriculture) 1, Recon 0, Streetwise 0, Survival 3.

Doctor Galena is a female guest produced by ConTech. Her pattern was a famous Solomani doctor who authored one of the standard medical reference works in Magyar sector, A New Anatomy of the Solomani Body, first published in 1011 and now in its 12th edition. A small woman with a raspy voice and cantankerous attitude, “Doctor Gal” was wildly popular in her day, hosting a long-running holovid series from 1028–1042, answering basic medical questions. Although the pattern died in 1072 at the age of 114, her clones are ubiquitous on Solomani worlds. Str=[2+1D] Dex=[4+1D] End=[6+1D] Int=10 Edu=12 Soc=11; Advocate 1, Art (write) 1, Athletics 0, Diplomat 0, Drive 0, Electronics (computer) 1, Investigate 0, Language 0, Medic 4, Persuade 0, Science (biology) 2, Science (genetics) 1, Vacc Suit 0.

Margeaux is a female guest based on the famous Imperial performer, Margot Furst. Born on Dingir in 1034, Furst was a talented singer and actress who exploded onto the entertainment scene when she was still a teen, appearing in a string of smash holovids. She struggled with fame, losing her fiance in an air/raft accident when she was only 28. In her later years Furst continued to be a successful star but behind the scenes struggled with drug use, dying while on vacation on Terra in 1074. Cynosure Entertainment, which owned her image and genetic pattern, released the Margeaux clone posthumously to “honor Margot’s eternal legacy.” Various Margeaux clones have gone on to star in a dozen or more Cynosure hits since Furst’s death. Str=[3+1D] Dex=[4+1D] End=[5+1D] Int=10 Edu=5 Soc=12; Art (performer) 4, Carouse 2, Deception 1, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Persuade 0, Steward 0, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1.

Marlowe is a male guest marketed as a fixer, a general purpose investigator skilled at infiltration and—if necessary—physical persuasion. A product of Kline Synthetic Technologies, the pattern for Marlowe had served four terms working for the Gladwell Security Agency in Magyar sector. Str=[5+1D] Dex=[4+1D] End=[6+1D] Int=12 Edu=8 Soc=5; Deception 0, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Gun Combat (slug) 2, Investigate 2, Melee (unarmed) 1, Persuade 2, Recon 1, Streetwise 2.

Mascon is a versatile and well-educated guest sold by Totaliti Workforce, able to assist with many tasks onboard merchant starships. The female pattern completed five terms in the merchant marines of Daibei, rising to First Officer. Str=[1+1D] Dex=[2+1D] End=[2+1D] Int=12 Edu=10 Soc=8; Admin 1, Animals 0, Astrogation 0, Athletics (dexterity) 1, Broker 0, Electronics (comms) 2, Language 0, Leadership 1, Mechanic 2, Medic 0, Persuade 0, Pilot (spacecraft) 3, Steward 0, Vacc Suit 1.

Modesti is a female Solomani guest produced by ConTech, a tough and streetwise clone often employed as a bodyguard, courier, or enforcer. As Modesties are associated with illicit activities, they are occasionally banned altogether from Imperial worlds with Law Levels of 7 or higher. Str=[4+1D] Dex=[3+1D] End=[5+1D] Int=11 Edu=5 Soc=7; Athletics (strength) 2, Deception 1, Diplomat 0, Drive (grav) 1, Electronics 0, Flyer 0, Gun Combat 0, Melee (unarmed) 3, Pilot 0, Recon 0, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1, Vacc Suit 0.

Roger Echo is a skilled guest soldier trained to fight in harsh wilderness environments. A product of SuSAG, the pattern was an Imperial Army sergeant experienced in special reconnaissance, having served three terms—including four separate deployments in warzones. Str=[5+1D] Dex=[3+1D] End=[5+1D] Int=6 Edu=6 Soc=8; Athletics (endurance) 1, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Gun Combat (slug) 2, Heavy Weapons 0, Leadership 1, Melee (unarmed) 1, Recon 2, Stealth 1, Survival 1, Vacc Suit 0.

Sung is an experienced Solomani belter capable of working extended hours in zero-G environments. A product of Argent Mining, Sungs are prized for their relentless focus and meticulous work. This guest clone is not available outside of the Wuan Technology Association. Str=[5+1D] Dex=[5+1D] End=[6+1D] Int=9 Edu=8 Soc=7; Athletics (dexterity) 2, Astrogation 0, Carouse 0, Electronics 0, Mechanic 0, Pilot 0, Profession (belter) 2, Science 0, Vacc Suit 1.

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