Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Classic Traveller Podcast

I've just published the first episode of a new podcast designed for referees and players of the classic version of Traveller. It's got the cool name of "Behind the Claw".  Get your RPG podcast fix!

The podcast's homepage

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Classic Traveller - Lament for Oretroos

Between the last session and this another radio intercept was picked up...

Radio Intercept

The session started with the PCs and thirty of their mercenary company standing on the riverbank as a horde of writhing fish/frog-like things rolled towards them.

Keeping out of reach they split up to see how wide-spread the horde was. As far as they could tell it was all along the river. They rejoined the unit, formed a defensive circle and started pouring out the fire. A rough calculation showed them collectively doing around 1600 points of damage per round.

The horde of creatures just didn't stop, they kept coming, and an hour later ammunition was running low and even the FGMPs were overheating, but still they came. During the combat they PCs noticed that the creatures were attacking each other as well as coming for them and that they were cannibalistic too.

They decided to pull out and head for the nearby (ish) native village and the caves there that they thought would be more defensible. In wedge formation with the FGMPs carving out the path they headed for the village. As they moved away from the water the animals thinned out until soon only the odd one or two had to be eliminated. Behind them the horde was destroying everything, buildings trees and even each other.

They spent the night unmolested in the cave, and dawn, ever the hope of man, showed bright and clear with no sign of pursuit by the horde. They started to head back towards the camp site and called down a shuttle from the King Richard. The shuttle swept high over the camp reporting the devastation and then came by for closer pass. As the crew were reporting what they found at the camp the radio went dead. Fearing the worst the PCs hurried onto the camp and could soon see that the shuttle was burning on the ground.

As they moved towards it they suffered from another of the EMP-like pulses and a third of the team found their power armour powering down. At the same time they came under laser fire from the woods. The team went to ground and started returning fire at unseen targets.

After a few rounds of blind fire, two of the company were down, and the first of the enemy were seen. At first all the PCs could see was silver reflect-like shields and the snouts of laser rifles . When they hit them with the FGMPs which would normally melt through reflec, they found the the plasma beams were near useless! In a heartbeat they commanded the mercs to switch to projectile weapons and a suppressing fire of Snub rounds was sent towards the enemy.

More of the shields appeared as the team split into three. Jocko lead his squad straight-in with Bear and Kepler's squads flanking to either side. The enemy turned out to be a small squad of lightly armoured Aslan. The battle didn't last long, but two men from each team went down to the Aslan lasers, bringing the total casualties to eight. The last two Aslan made a break for it, running with the shields held behind their backs. For our intrepid heroes, shooting enemies in the back has never been a problem, the last of the Aslan were therefore cut down without concern. They looted the bodies discovering a few interesting things. The Aslan were dirty and grubby, obviously having been in the field for some time. They were also carrying iron-claws the Aslan equivalent of swords, but of most interest were the shields they'd been using. they were thin foil like devices that folded easily into a pocket and "popped" out to form the reflec-like shields.

It seemed to the players that the Aslan invasion of the sub sector had obviously reached this world and that it was time to get the heck out.

As Kepler the medic went to work (and only losing two of the casualties) the team spread out to search the area. They located an Aslan mortar and took possession of it. They advanced to the downed shuttle and sent out patrols to secure the area. The only survivor on the shuttle turned out to be none other that the head steward from the King Richard who had got caught on the shuttle went it emergency-launched.

Once the area was declared clear of enemy forces they called the remaining shuttle to come and pick them up. As it entered the atmosphere those on the ground caught sight of something...

On a distant ridge line a huge biped could be seen, when examined it was revealed to be large Aslan robot, much bigger than the one's the team had previous appropriated. It appeared to be carrying a large dual barreled weapon. It became obvious that the thing had seen them and as it raised it's gun, then melted it with their FGMPs. As it crumpled a group of 10+ Aslan were seen to come running over the ridge and down into the trees with another robot. They set up the mortar and fired off the remaining rounds in the general direction of the Aslan forces, hoping to disable the Aslan force with what they hoped were EMP mortar rounds.

As the shuttle swept towards them the Aslan fired at it, the PCs could see the laser beams skimming past but missing the shuttle. They rushed all of their people onto the shuttle and headed space-side at the double quick.

Once on board the King Richard the PCs had some trouble convincing the Captain to jump out of system ASAP as he was still thinking of completing the passengers "holiday". This was however given short shrift and a few "kill him and take the ship" asides were swapped. The next question was were to go.

The ship was scheduled to rendezvous with the refueling ship in the deep dark between systems as it had on the way out, but the PCs seriously wanted to head to one of the nearby planets, one of which had a Navy base. The Captain was dead against this. He didn't have funds to refuel the ship at an unscheduled port and sending for funds could take months. The passengers would be screaming blue murder if they did that. In the end it was settled to make the jump out into the dark.

The refueling ship however had been attacked. It was right where is should have been, but there was no life sign. Investigation showed that the ship had been hit with scathing laser fire. The PCs boarded and ensured there were no enemies aboard and then shunted some of the King Richards engineers across to look at the situation. The main transfer pumps were out of action but after getting one of the generators online they were able to jury rig a new pump. Unfortunately this new system would be like filling a swimming pool with a garden hose, it would take days.

Back on the quiet peaceful King Richard a day or two later there was a minor explosion in the engineering section that rocked this ship and upset the passengers. The engineer reported that the jury rigged pumping system had been the root cause but that he would watch it carefully from now on.

A good while later a fire was reported in a cabin. The crew took care of it but when the PCs wandered down to take a look at the situation, they found bodies amongst the debris. They were the bodies of the Montaski's. The PCs immediately went looking for the Curdelets. The men of these families had been at each other throats on the way out. They found Mrs Curdelet in her stateroom, and she thought her husband was in a bar somewhere.

They pounded down to the nearest bar, found one of their Vargr troopers struggling to drink from a human pint-glass. He indicated that the man they wanted was in the corner booth. In the booth they found a well sozzled Mr Curdelet. After a brief inquisition they didn't get anything out of him and he tried to walk away. Out came the Snub pistol and tranq rounds. The first round went into the Vargr and the second into Mr Curdelet. There was more panic and screams from the nearby passengers who only saw men with guns shooting people down in the bar.

As you can imagine the passengers and crew of the King Richard are becoming jumpy and scared. The trip out was dotted with missing people and talk of Vargr monsters attacking people. Then the visit to the planet had turned into a series of animal attacks, bloodshed, Aslan, and death. And here on the return trip, explosions, attacked ships, and now the guards shooting people in the bars.

The man was locked into his room with the pass-key and the Vargr dropped off with the other Vargr troopers who had a good laugh at his expense.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How To Write a Gamebook

I just realised that I haven't posted here about my video series on how you can write a gamebook!

I've a few of these books under my belt now, so I thought I'd create a short series on how to write them. So if you're bucket-list includes writing a book, why not watch this series and share a new game book with the world. This is the first in the series, but I have just posted the fourth, and there will be more coming.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Classic Traveller - What? Eh? Say again?

Recap -The PCs are leading a group of mercenaries acting as security on a cruise liner going to an off-limits world.

Between last night's session and the previous one I set up a few teasers before we started, I posted this after the previous session...

"Day 1: The initial survey was followed up with the establishment of a safe swim-zone on a likely looking beach. Before the passengers were allowed on the surface, an area of sea  close to the beach was ringed with a strong net and small explosives dropped inside that ring to kill all life within. Then the surface was skimmed and finally the passengers allowed down to enjoy the waters and beach.

"One shuttle is running a regular ground to surface route and the other is being used to establish a jungle camp someway inland from the safe-beach."

Then the next day I posted...

"Day 2: A Jungle camp is established five miles from the Swim Zone set up on Day 1. A clearing has been made, and tents for refreshments and overnight stays for around 50 people erected. A partially cleared path has been made/mapped between the two camps so the passengers can "make trail". The camp is surrounded by a "bug fence" for keeping out flying insects and small ground creatures.

"A cliff no more than 2 miles from Jungle Camp, has been identified for the establishment of a climbing camp.

"A 'Hide' has been placed close to a native village for those wishing to view the natives. However up to this point, no natives have been seen. The native village is 5 miles further inland from Jungle Camp."

Then the next day a posted a tease for the players other PCs (known as the home-team) who are still back at the sub sector capital, a snippet from the local news source...

"The enforced evacuation of Stallone has now been confirmed by refugee-Indes employees appearing at the various ports of the system. Indes representatives were not available for comment."

Then subsequent to the snippets above I posted the following radio intercept (yes the one I posted in the last session report and should have saved to go here...

Radio Intercept (only 1 minute 34 seconds of MP3 audio)

.. finally the session started.

We established how the troops were distributed between the three camps, beach, jungle, cliff, and the ship. Then things started to happen. The beach camp was ringed by laser posts effectively providing a zappy bug screen to protect the tourists. The PC 'Jocko' noticed a child standing close the zap fence staring out into the jungle. He approached the child asked what was happening and the kid told him he thought there was a critter in the bushes.

William who was running the bar on the beach, was approached by one of the rich passengers and offered a couple of thousand creds to accompany this guy on a little unscheduled hunting. He wanted to get himself a trophy-head of one of the autocthones. William turned him down and suggested he might want to have a word with the Vargr contingent, and sent him on his way.

Jocko started to move the kid away from the fence and the critter, when the flying-snake-with-wings-thing (a.k.a. fire lizard) launched itself at the kid. Jocko used the cape of his uniform to shield the child and smacked the critter to the floor. Then he swung round his ACR and let fly at the thing with a full auto burst. shots went everywhere but not into the creature! It lunged for the kid and got a grasp of his arm. Another PC, William, dived in, and heaving a cutlass (or was it an axe?) killed the wee beastie. Sadly this left the child in very poor health.

The child was rushed to a shuttle and the team's medic Kepler, took off rushing to get him to the ship and the med bay up there. As it ascended the pilot called Keplers attention to a shape in the water below. An very large animal, 80 to 90 meters long was swimming below the surface towards the beach. Was it a danger to the holiday makers? Kepler risked the life of the child by ordering the shuttle to spend time and circle around so that he could a few warning shots across it's bow with his plasma gun. This didn't seem to work, the creature slipped about the columns of boiling water he created and continued to the beach. When he turned back to the child, he was dead. There was nothing else for him to do now, but to head back to the beach and start an evacuation.

At the beach, the PCs started a near-panic by ushering people away from the water line and along the path to the jungle camp by telling them a monster was coming.  The shuttles landed near the beach and the PCs reversed direction and started herding people towards them to get them off planet.

The beast raised up out of the water, a massive thing with hundreds of small tentacles where the head should have been and smashed over the safety fence and flopped its "head" onto the beach. The head split open into five main tentacles and huge bulbs started swelling up on each tentacle.

William opened up from the beach with his FGMP and burned into one of the pods (doing 58 points of damage) which exploded in a cloud of spider-silk-like filaments that started drifting towards the beach. Jocko turned on the beast with an entire magazine of RAM grenades from his ACR. (another 70 odd points!) Explosions rippled along its body.

One of the tentacle pods exploded of it's own accord and thick strands of "silk" shot out in all directions, which the PCs managed to dodge but which hooked six of the passengers and started dragging them back to the root of the tentacle.

Kepler took a shot now as he leapt from the shuttle. His plasma burned into the creature doing an equally stupid amount of damage! William came back for a second shot and this time the creature was killed before it could swallow any of the tourists. However these people were seriously hurt. Not only dragged along the ground and crushed, but when the "silk" was peeled off  it had caused some reactions. The injured were loaded onto a shuttle and sent space-side.

On the ship, the shuttle was met by the ship's captain and he was not happy to find scared passengers pouring back to the ship but also injured guests! He remonstrated with Kepler who was supposed to have kept the people safe from harm, and had allowed them to be harmed. He was not a happy man.

Jocko decided to get a closer look at the monster and started to cut it open. Immediately a horde to writhing wormy creatures poured out of the wound, swimming in the water and writhing around on the sand but didn't cause any harm.

From here things calmed down a little. The beach camp was abandoned and people settled into jungle camp. The laser fence from beach camp was retrieved and set up as a second inner barrier around the camp. The PCs were starting to get a new respect for the unknown fauna.

Many of the passengers took to fishing in the nearby river. What they were fishing out were eel-like with frog faces, and a pair of small arms near the front. They tasted good, and barbeques were very popular. Over the next couple of days the PCs noticed how these fish were getting bigger over time. The first ones brought out of the water had been five or six inches in length but over the next day or two those pulled out were a few inches bigger.

During the night, the patrols noted how the zapper fence along the river was very busy zapping something. In the morning the floor was found littered with the dead fish-frog things. Many of these dead creatures were larger again.

Jocko wanted to get a look at one of the autocthones and so set off to the "hide". When he joined his Vargr compatriots at the hide he was disappointed to note there were no locals about. The Vargr reported that, actually none had been seen they arrived.

The PCs decided to investigate the village. It was set within a shallow bowl in the landscape. Rude beehive huts constructed of mud were scattered around, and there were cave mouths around the edge of the bowl. Inside the huts they found the scattered remnants and accouterments of a neanderthal like life style but no locals. Investigating one of the caves they found the bodies of locals who appeared to have been dead for some while. There was no evidence of foul play.

They returned to camp and jumped into a shuttle for a trip to another village, in search of any of the local tribes. At the next village they found the same story. At the next it was the same again. Various theories were advanced but no definitive answer was arrived at.

As they took off to head back to camp and only ten feet up alarms and claxons sounded and the shuttle's systems simply shut down and it dropped onto its landing struts.  Fearing an attack of some sort, Jocko pulled up his ACR intending to use its infrared to scan the surround jungle, only to find it wasn't working. All the electronic gear was down, only the coms built into their suits was working (hardened electronics). The theory that won out, was that they had been hit by some kind of EMP. It turned out that the jungle camp was in a similar position, it's fences had shut down. Fortunately the other shuttle had been spaceside and hadn't been effected by the ...whatever it was. They ordered the camp evacuated and set to work trying to get the shuttle up and running.

A few hours passed before they managed to get it running. When they arrived back at the camp they had powerful lights erected around the camp and most of their mercs on the ground and prepared for an assault. As darkness fell they saw a horde of eyes reflecting the lamp light, emerge from the water...

And we ended the session there.
I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Scarlet Heroes, a first session

Last night was a night of nights as they say. It was my first time playing a game of Scarlet Heroes and the first time in the longest time, of playing a game with one player (me) and a GM.

I'd glanced at the free Qquickstart, so knew it was an OSR inspired game but not a lot else. At the start of the session  I had to throw a character together, and during this discovered that the rules actually have a section for handing one-on-one games, this was getting more interesting by the minute.

Having rolled the six stats and picked my traits I moved onto starting equipment. I managed to get spear, buckler and chainmail...but in typical OSR fashion there was no mention of clothes, so the session became subtitled...

The Quest for Underwear, and Maybe a Shirt

In the village of Rumbly Belly lived a Wanderer who was an Escaped Slave and ex Miltary Scout, who although well armed had nothing on under his chainmail. He really wanted something on underneath, if only to stop the chainmail plucking his hair and chaffing his bits. Fortunately for him a creepy tower was nearby and rumour had it that it used to be inhabited by a wizard of huge power and massive underpant-hamper. So guess where the wanderer went!!

Through the creepy woods, to the tower, circle around, assault the door. Empty room except for handy glowing mushroom light source.Stairs up, stairs down...which way? Bedrooms, and hampers, probably upstairs. Up we go!

The first level contained a living room, somewhat run down. An attempt to fashion a loin-cloth from the leather cover on the chair failed rather miserably. So the first door was opened. Opened just a crack for a bit of peek inside. Uh oh! It was a  mouldy library but there was a crystal statue guardian which raised its arms and attacked. I tried to close the door but it was ripped open, meaning it was spear-time!

The combat raged backwards and forwards, book shelves were upended, books were thrown but soon I was backing up the stairs just trying to fend off the crystal beast, when a lucky thrust finally put paid to him. After listening at the door and stairs to see if anything else was moving, my hero retired to the musty couch for a rest.

A quick scout around the library revealed no underpants, so I moved to the other door and discovered a bedroom. As we all know underpants accumulate under beds so I flipped the bed to find... no pants. But there was a trap door. Could this be where the pants were kept?  When I eventually prised it open all I found was a locked metal box. I dragged this outside into the sun and broke it open. Unfortunately dying because of the poison needle trap...

... Hey! No,  I didn't die, die. Just died. Which is not as lethal as you might expect under the Scarlet Heroes rules. I'm fuzzy on the rules here, but I rolled a die and survived. Apparently this "die" gets bigger each time you die (from d4 to d6 to d8 etc) and that's bad but I'm not sure why.

I was in a quandry. The box contained 40gp and 400sp but I had no bag/sack. I toted the box over to the wood line and hid it quickly under woodland rubbish. Then back to the tower. Up the stairs again. On the next level was a strange room with maps and drawings on the walls and ceiling. I tore down a map or two to discover they were star maps of some sort, but they didn't hide anything behind.

The stairs led further upwards and a listen check revealed "something sensed rather than heard". Mysterious!  Could it be the warm hum of a hamper full of dirty underpants, the possibility was a lure! Cautiously moving upwards I had sudden visions of far away worlds (Vargr inhabited?) caused by the mysterious drawings on the ceiling, before reaching the top floor.

Here I found a floor covered in drawings of demonology and the "hum" was stronger, and...and what the heck was that huge big eye-thing over there? If my character had any underpants, this is the point at which he would have need to change them. In the absence of a change of clothing, I backed slowly down the stairs all the way to the ground floor.

The stairs down led to an ancient roughly made dungeon. Cautiously moving along the tunnels I found a few odd things. A cave full of bones...a series of empty cells, and a torture chamber! Here I acquired an old rusty knife which was slid into my belt. A knife is always handy.

The next room was used in ancient times for one of, cooking, making witches brews, or rendering down bodies I can't be sure. Whatever it was, the Ghoul that leapt out of a cauldron at me was angry that I was there. The fight was brutal. Cauldrons were knocked over, ladles were used as vicious nasty weapons, there may even have been a little spear action. When finally the Ghoul was down I peaked into its hidey hole and found a sack full of coin. When I grabbed the sack, it set off a trap of some sort and the roof began to cave in. If only I'd thought to don one of the smaller cauldrons as a helmet! I was twice smashed by rocks while running for the surface.

Back at the trees, I upended the sack of coins and cut leg holes in the bottom. Thus fashioning a rather snazzy, if itchy, set of underwear. Joy! Bliss! Warmth!...Itchy.

The final act was to pile the coin into the metal box and head back to town for some clothes shopping.

A really enjoyable game, and the rules seemed to work rather well. I may have to keep an eye on this game and maybe add it to my wish list. The one-on-one session went really well and the rules, especially the not-dying part, made an OSR game survivable for a single PC.
I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Supplement 2 Animal Encounters, a review

This 52 page booklet was part of the original Traveller, and published in 1979. This review however is focusing on the currently available PDF version. The PDF is based on a scan of a printed copy and as these things go , it's a good scan, clear and easy to read. there is only one piece of art, a small black and white of a Lovecraftian-looking octopodian.

Book three of Traveller (Worlds and Adventures) gave you a mechanism for building a random animal encounter table for any terrain on any world. If your players were going into marshy terrain on a small world, you could knock up an encounter table for that particular world. The purpose of this supplement is to save you bother of making up that table of animal encounters.

After a brief introduction the booklet quickly moves into a series of tables that form the meat of this book. It systematically presents a separate table for each terrain type on a Small World with a Thin Atmosphere, then a Small World with a Standard Atmosphere and then, Small World with Dense Atmosphere. This slips into rinse and repeat for Medium sized worlds and Large Worlds.

Each table caters for a random roll from 2-12, each line gives you bare statistics for an animal, except when you roll a 10, which describes an event. Each animal entry describes its type, weight, hits to unconsciousness, hits to kill, armour, the beasts weapons and its likelihood of attacking or running, and finally it's speed.
Without book three, these tables would be of little use as this supplement does not explain all of the terms it uses. For instance, if an animal on the table is a "Intermittent", what does that mean?  If it attacks "as teeth", what does that phrase mean? 

Fundamentally each row is a stat-block without any description or narrative detail. This is typical of the Classic Traveller system, it leaves a lot of open space for the Referee to fill in the details, which either suits you, or doesn't. I have mixed feelings about this scenario within this context. If I'm being supplied encounter tables for quick reference, they should be quick reference with everything I need on them, but at the same time, this same table might apply to thousands of worlds and the same creatures should not be appearing on world after world.

What about those events that happen when you roll a 10? Overall I like this idea, it adds good spice to what is effectively a wandering monster chart. For instance, one event says that a PC is attached by a "Chameleon Filter" (you'll need to look that up). Another says, grass fire seen on the horizon, another that your vehicle breaks an axle. However, you'll have to try and avoid a broken axle three times on the trot or it might get a bit samey.

After iterating through the world/atmosphere options already mentioned the book goes on give you a few more specific tables.  Eight tables for various Maritime locations, two for arctic conditions, and two for vacuum worlds.

Overall, I think it's fairly useful in situations where you haven't had time to create specific encounter charts of your own. You would have to avoid using these charts too often if your players visit a lot of worlds, as they would soon become stale. With a million worlds it would be criminal of the referee for every world to have a 12Kg Flyer that Attacks on 3+.

You have nothing to lose by adding this to your Classic Traveller collection, but it is by no means required as you can get more variety by using the rules in Book 3.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Classic Traveller - Murder, blood, and bodies

Everyone's favourite mercenary company are acting as guards on the King Richard, a massive space-liner. Last session two grisley murders took place and the rough burly mercs had to do the investigating.

With the young man who discovered his lover dead being led away, the players  had to decide what to do about the body. With the previous body still floating outside the airlock, spacing it was not an option. In the end they decided to suck the air out of the stateroom and leave it sealed up. There was a lot of discussion about how they could do a search without alarming the passengers.

The ship's First Lieutenant told them an anecdote about mass panic on starships and how he'd been on a ship that had fallen into that trap. There had been unreasonable panic, fires, rampage, death, and by the end of jump the ship was almost a write-off, a thing that he would not risk again for any reason.

A panicked call came over the com' reporting a bout of violence on the pool-deck. They dispatched their nearest team to the pool with orders to be as non lethal as possible, before running down there themselves. When they popped onto the pool deck they found themselves amongst a pack of running passengers. They were wailing about the monster that was attacking people.

At the pool itself, they didn't find a monster, they did find one of their Vargr mercs pinning down one of the liners hostesses, and he even had his teeth buried in her leg. In the pool a man was weakly trying to swim as his blood leaked into the water.

The PCs quickly dragged the bleeding man from the water and pulled the merc off the hostess. It seems the report of a monster was a reference to the Vargr. They called for the doctor and set about working out what had happened. It seemed that the hostess had suddenly attacked the man in the pool with a ...spoon. Stabbing him repeatedly and trying to open him up.

The doctor wasn't answering but a nurse could be reached, and rushed to the scene. The nurse worked on the injured man but wouldn't go near the hostess until the Vargr that was licking his bloodied lips backed away. Once the "monster" was out of the way the nurse found the hostess almost catatonic with wide open pupils. Pharmacological! The head steward was called to clean up the bloody pool. He couldn't believe the mess, and straight after he'd finished cleaning the first victims room too!

Where the heck was the doctor?

They knocked on the doctor's door but got no answer, they called down the Lt to use his pass key (which they then took from him for their own use). Inside they found the doctor drunk and out to the world. The Lt was not pleased. The PCs noted that there were a lot of chemical bottles around the place and sheets of paper with chemical formula scrawled across them, many were struck out. The PC with medical training took a glance over these and realised they were hallucinogenic concoxtions. A search of the room discovered a notebook under the bunk. In this they discovered a list of names and dates. The Lt realised it was a list of crew members, ten of them.

The PCs called a meeting of the named crew in the pool and met them there with a small contingent of the merc company. The nurse give them the once over as the PCs started an interrogation. They found that the doctor without authorisation or permission had given all of them shots, claiming that they needed to have them for the trip to Oretroos, to protect them against Oretroos' bugs. A few of the crew also had blank spots in their memories that appeared to match up with the murders.

After a brief discussion about what to do with these people, they asked for volunteers to go into cold storage and suggested that it would be better for everyone, as "who-knew what the chemicals might do"?!  Some volunteered but the idea was not popular, the danger and risk of cold storage put a lot of people off, but in the end the rest were forced into it under duress. This way of putting people on ice proved popular with the PCs. The young man who had seen the body of his lover, was also placed into storage.

When a man came up to the PCs reporting his child missing the PCs feared the worst. They tried to get some information out of the man but he proved more than a little uptight. The man was afraid for his child, and the rumours of "monsters" that had been going round had put him just over the edge. He took off running down the corridor screaming. Trying to keep the lid on things one PC played-up the situation gayly dancing in the man's wake and made it all appear to be an impromptu act of some sort. Alas when the man started barging into staterooms screaming and searching for his son it could not be allowed to continue. He was tackled to the ground and placed under arrest.

They dragged him back to his room and finding an item of the boys clothing asked one of the Vargr if his nose would help in tracking the child. The Vargr was unsure if he was being insulted but in the end agreed to help. After visiting the theater deck where the child was last seen the heroic and skillful Vargr led them to a locked storeroom inside which they found the mutilated body of the missing child. Some mental calculation seemed to suggest that this boy may have been the victim of the one of those already in storage, so all that was left was to get rid of the body. They called the head steward to clean the place up and slipped the boy's remains into what was becoming the "death room", the stateroom of the second victim.

Things went pretty smoothly after that, it was only a short while until they emerged from jump. They found themselves in the middle of nowhere, but this was not because of a mis-jump. A fuel tender was waiting there and a transfer of fuel to the liner commenced. While this was taking place the body that was waiting quietly outside the shuttle airlock (the first victim) was retrieved and thrown into the "death room".

A second jump took place. Tensions were high. The passengers were unnerved by the "missing" people, both passengers and crew. By the roomers of the "monsters", the fight in the pool of course added to it. And these very rich people did not like being so upset, they had paid for the excursion of a life time, not a fear filled ride into hell.

Only one incident of note took place during the second jump. The PCs were called to a fight in the theater. Two men had come to blows. The families had been rivals/enemies for some time. One family had a teenage daughter, the other a teenage son, there had been a relationship that the parent could not countenance.  During the show the men had become aware that the other was also on board and a nudged elbow had turned into a fight.

The PCs arrived and broke the fight up, but decided to make a little money on the side. They encouraged the men to schedule a bout of fisticuffs the next morning. Of course a "book" was started and drinks served, in the forward theater, all without the officers of the ship being aware. The audience of unshaved gentlemen turned up, and the bout played out. When one man hit the canvas (alright, metal floor) the PCs had added another 1100Cr to their pocketbooks.

The arrival at Oretroos went off without a hitch. A shuttle was launched and a survey carried out. they were scouting for a few things. Locations where the passengers could be shuttled down for a swim on the beach, mountain climbing, jungle treks etc. Most importantly they were checking out the autocthones and the location of the Imperial research base. The aim being to avoid the Imperials, and allow passengers to visit the others. Radio signals were picked up from the Imperials and the base's position located.

There ended the session.

However, as I like to tease the next session to the players I made this audio recording of another radio intercept picked up a day or two later...

Radio Intercept

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dungeon World session

On Sunday night I took part in my first game  of DW. It was a learning game for players and referee so there was a bit of meta gaming and back and forth with the rules, but not unduly so. It was a short two hour session which included character generation, which ate into our playing time.

It was a fun game that featured our characters waking up caged in a cave and being promptly attacked by some disgusting lizard men. The heroic ranger managed to free us from our suspended prison and we quickly grabbed our weapons before the slimeies got too close. The ranger made good use of his weapons and friendly wolf pet while my cleric got caught up in a bit of a wrestling match. This little bout ended with one lizard tied up and the PCs running up a tunnel to escape.

Once outside the ranger did his rangering and found us a path out of the marsh. Sadly the pesky lizards had other ideas and three of them chased after us. Now was time for the cleric to do the spell thing, and a quick "fear" set the lead lizard back. More melee followed until the remaining Lizzie's broke and ran.

It was a good learning session where we were discovering how to trigger moves and playing them to advantage. There was even a little use of the "bonds" to gather bonuses. I've played Monster of the Week before which has been my only experience of the Apocalypse engine, and that set me up well for this game. As a player its easy to get into this game and start having fun, but only if you realise the mechanism is an aid to the story telling, and that a failed roll is as much fun as a success.

I'm looking forward to the next session. There are more moves I have to make!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Trader's Vengeance - a game book

I have just made my latest game book, "Trader's Vengeance" available in paperback via

Backcover blurb:

After three generations of hard graft the starship that your grandfather, your father, and yourself have all grafted for, is in peril. If you don't make the next payment, you'll lose your livelihood, your home, your ship. There isn't anything that's going to stop you getting the money you need.

With aliens, pirates, robots, criminals, the military and even the police against you, the odds aren't in your favour. This is the time when the real inter-planetary trader come into his own. Warm up the engines, bring the guns online, snap up the cargo, it's time to make some cred.

Traders Vengeance is a game-book where you play the hero and choose the path to take. You decide which enemies to fight and which shipments to make.


As you'll gather, it's science fiction, and set in a Traveller-like universe.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Classic Traveller, Time for a Cruise

The PCs had accepted a new mercenary ticket last session. the ticket involved acting as security on a space going cruise liner, the King Richard.

Between sessions I teased with...
Overheard by a mercenary stationed on the bridge of the King Richard, two days into jump, a conversation between the Captain and his First Officer...

"Sir, the engineer was telling me that he had a wobble in one of the Jump-Field generators."

"Damn. Which one?"


"Again? Three months in dock and it's still not straight! Tell him I want it monitored hourly and report made to the me at the change of  every watch.

"Aye Captain."

 ... and then...

All of the MMM (shorthand for the PCs merc' company) on board the King Richard have been issued with ship comm' units in the form of a small hand held device. It's a piece of crap and there are dead spots on the ship where they don't work well.

The officers of MMM are all simultaneously beeped by the ship comm, and asked to attend the Captain in his cabin at their earliest pleasure.

 ... and then the next day...

The Captain clears his throat.

"We have a delicate and urgent matter to attend to, and although I understand it's not really in your regular line of business, I'm afraid I'll have to ask for your assistance."

... and now, on to the actual session.

The Captain went on to explain that there had been a murder on board and that he wanted the PCs, as the only security on board, to investigate. The First Lieutenant took over the briefing and gave them some additional details. The chief steward had discovered a murdered woman  in one of the cabins. The woman's husband and child had been intercepted and diverted into the stateroom of a crew member, putting them on-hold as it were.

The captain broke in to advise the PCs that they needed to keep the whole incident under wraps, the danger of panic on board amongst the passengers must be avoided at all costs. (Also the super rich passengers wouldn't like their digestion interrupted).

Down to the stateroom containing the body. The Lt used a pass key to let them in. Only one PC went in for a look around while they waited for the ships doctor. The stateroom was split into two areas and the PC could see blood splattered across the table, chair, and carpet, he didn't risk peeking around the corner though. He didn't find anything untoward or upset in this first area, other than the smell.

When the ships doctor turned up he immediately recognised the smell, had a flash back of sorts and had to leave the room. A PC kept him company and offered him a "sniff of his cinnamon apple pouch" to help settle him down. Once the doctor had regained his balance he led the PCs into the bedroom. There they found the murdered woman opened up in a horrific way. Face slashed, limbs hacked open along their length and stomach open with the entrails pulled out.

There was some discussion of possible murder weapons, and the doctor could only say that the weapon was a large hacking blade... and yes the hatchets carried by the PCs merc's could be responsible for such wounds.

The Lt reminded the PCs that word of this atrocity should not reach the passengers, and indeed that as few crew should find out about it as possible, lest they start talking which could lead to panic. But the PCs needed to investigate and ask questions, how could they do that without suspicion?

The discussion circled for a while with possible cover stories being discussed, including the truth, biological infections, accidents, infestations, stroke, heart attacks etc. Should they put the body in stasis? This was poo pooed as the cold sleep capsules had glass port holes meaning anyone could see the state of her. They really needed to keep the truth from everyone including the grieving husband and child.

In the end they decided they needed to get rid of the body. With no evidence of a crime, no one could find out about it and start a panic. But how do they get rid of it and explain the lack of a body? Of course! She went "Space Crazy" and then spaced herself! But that was problematic too. There was one passenger air lock and the crazy woman couldn't have exited there without notice, so that left the  the airlocks that only crew could reach which were coded access only... so someone on board must have forgotten to lock up an airlock, simple really.

Now they needed to get the body to an airlock. The washer-woman's wicker basket was out, as the body was too smelly and a bit drippy. It was down to engineering to get a wheeled bin of some sort. While they were there they learned that there was no video surveillance on board (not surprising considering they were cruising to a forbidden zone, and no-one wants evidence of their presence). They also discovered that the door locks didn't record who opened a door, only the times last ten or so openings and closings.

Later an engineer would visit the door-lock and inform them of the opening and closing of the door. From his description, they assumed she had returned to the room then opened the door to admit someone else a few minutes later.  Only a very few minutes after that the door had been opened again, presumably the killer leaving.

Armed with the plastic bin they bundled the body into it, and sealed the top with plastic and tape. They left the Chief Steward cleaning the room (he'd discovered the victim so already knew about here) and headed down to the shuttle bay.

At this point I checked their skill lists to see what they knew about jump-space tech. I found nothing relevant.

They manhandled the body through the shuttle to it's loading ramp. They cycled the lock and opened themselves to jump space. Pulling the body out and giving it a heave they sent it drifting out into ... into... the stasis field that surrounds a ship in jump, and there it still hangs, and will hang until they drop out of jump. [insert referee's evil grin here]

The investigation kind of petered out here, and the PCs retired for the night, after stepping up the security patrols their mercs were making.

They were soon awakened by a call from Orrkselghu the leader of their Vargr contingent, he needed them to come to him. He couldn't say more as the comm's were open. When they reached him he was standing with a distressed young man held firmly in his paw. It turned out there had been another murder, this young man's lover as it turned out. In the stateroom they found a similar situation, a man's body torn open, blood everywhere. There were differences too. First victim was female, this male. The first murder was in a plush state room, this one on a different deck and a cheaper state room (although all rooms on the ship are hideously expensive).

Some passengers saw the armed Vargr escorting the young man to a crew stateroom where he would be held until things could be cleaned up.

First thoughts of the party: Psycho serial killer on the ship while it's in-jump for a week.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Classic Traveller, The Scam is on...sort of.

As you may remember our heroes were waiting in the rented factory unit for a call back from the operative who was looking at the robot.

Between sessions I teased the players with a story prompt...

Orrkselghu (aka Zeus) pads over to you, his personal radio squarking the Vargr language. He speaks Vargr into the the radio, which goes silent then turns his attention to the away team.

(aka Jeff), out front, says he heard a crash some distance off and now he can hear shooting. He lusts for a fight."

The PCs (never ones to turn down a fight) locked and loaded...

 Orrkselghu (aka Zeus) barks into his radio. Then turning back to you guys he says.
(aka Jeff) is scouting." Then looking directly at Jocko says. "Will you lead the war party?" As he waits for your reply, you notice his mouth is held open, a Vargr-smile...

PC Jocko headed out with a few of the Vargr mercs. Jeff reported from a roof top that a car had crashed, the occupants debouched and were exchanging fire with men from another vehicle. Climbing to the roof himself Jocko got into a position above the crashed car. From here he could see the nearest shooters were dressed in civilian clothes and toting rifles (illegal on this world) and their opponents were pistol-armed coppers. The vargr troopers were ordered to act as a blocking force at various intersections interposed between the fire fight and the warehouse.

After assessing the scene, Jocko donned his good-boy hat and decided to help out the cops. He smashed the car with a grenade, blowing it sky high, and taking out four of the eight shooters. Considering that the odds were now even enough for the cops he and the Vargr pulled back to the warehouse.

Around this time the chaps in the warehouse got a call that Alfred Vicek Head of Purchasing, he would be paying a visit (a step up from the low grade company rep who'd previously come to look at the robot). He was on the moon and could pop over. Sadly this didn't work out too well, by the time he'd arrived the police had set up a cordon around the industrial district as they looked for more shooters. Alfred was stopped at a police check point and couldn't get in.

Now the PCs had to devise a plan to get this man through the road block...after some careful consideration they decided that the answer would be more violence! Jocko and Oeldzokghog (aka Jeff) set out again. They climbed to a rooftop near the blockade and Jocko aimed his grenade launcher in order to get maximum range. By causing explosions in the distance they hoped to draw away the cops.

He fired. Short. The grenade hit a building just a short distance away. Explosions, fire, police reaction, some of the cops were drawn away, a partial success. As Jocko and Jeff climbed down started running for the warehouse a cop spotted them. "Halt! Police!" Jocko shouted for Jeff to follow and started to run, but Jeff just growled the Vargr word for "coward" and opened fire on the cop.

Realising the situation had turned bad Jocko took off that good-boy hat, stomped it into the ground, spat on it, and took his lifetime-of-crime hat out, and donned it as he opened fire on the cop. Bullets tore through the prone copper's head and blasted out his back. They ran for the warehouse.

A bit of technical cleverness by PC Jenkins had the computer purring and they soon had a good read on police procedures. They knew if they hunkered down and didn't answer the door the cops wouldn't have the right to enter and search. So they sat quietly and waited for the inevitable search of the area and started plotting on how to get the heck out of this situation.

They remembered a merc-ticket they had turned down, that involved a dodgey looking chap wanting to hire the company to destroy an Imperial base. They had set an ex-cop (and) merc recruit to follow him as he'd been so-very-dodgey.  They now decided to turn this to their advantage.

The plan was for another merc to plant arms and ammunition on this guy and then have the ex-cop call his buddies and mount a raid, this would draw the few cops in the area away from the search. Plan!

Unfortunately the merc they talked into doing the planting returned from the job and reported that he was worried he'd be recognised. He arrived at the dodgey guy's hotel and had to ask in reception what room was his. When he'd got to the room the door was locked, so he'd kicked it in, threw the guns in and run for it... Not exactly the covert operation the PCs had hoped for. Anyway, the raid took place and it drew the cops away from the industrial sector. They loaded men and machines up onto a truck, headed for the air-lock, moved into the shuttle and took off to spend some time hiding on the dark side of a moon somewhere until the heat died away...

Meanwhile, back with the home-team PCs, another prospective customer for the mercenary unit turned up at the air-lock. he turned out to be Wicus Tyna, a representative of Cumberland Tours Inc. The tour company had a liner running "exciting" holidays for rich patrons. By exciting, the company meant often slightly illegal.

Wicus was in a bind. The liner "King Richard" was due to leave the next morning to visit the prohibited system Oretroos, and they had no guards. The liner always carried a contingent of guards because that made the customers feel much safer. So, with precious little time, he suddenly needed 100 guards. He was authorised to spend as much as 1,000,000Cr getting the guards.

There was a short negotiation, and then a stutter when it Wicus discovered they only had about 50 men rather than the required 100. However, they soon put his fears to rest when they showed the heavy equipment and power armour they would be bringing. He decided that would more than make up for a lack of numbers. It was all about making the customers feel safe, and what would be safer than being surrounded by walking tanks!

A recall alert was issued to the mercs on leave and everything made ready. The Home-team PCs wouldn't be going on the mission however as they had to stay behind as the official witness' to the changeover the subsector governorship.

There ended the session. But what of the Oretroos? Let's read the Imperial catalog of planets...

Oretroos - RED ZONE (thin atmos, 70% water)
Under Imperial edict this system is out of bound. Proto-intelligent race developing. Only allowed visitors are the 1000 strong Imperial study team.

Hmmm... and what happened to the King Richard's previous guards? Oh I'm going to have so much fun. :)

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Classic Traveller, The Scam is Off

The players were all set up to put the hit on Garty Jules, to raid his home steal his stuff and rip off his soon-to-be-ex wife Piertrie Hoolane...and we had to call off the session due to real life. Doh! Then this Friday rolls around and one of the players couldn't make it. So we opted to avoid the hit and follow up another thread of the story.

A while back the players were given a letter of introduction by the head of a mega corp (InDes) to help them get in to see the imperial sub-sector leader (known as the Secretary General). In a previous session they had swung by the palace and dropped off their letter of introduction and been assured that it would be passed on and someone would be in touch.

Well, no one had been in touch so they headed off to the palace. They walked passed the guards on the steps and into reception where they once again met Shiela Cooperski the receptionist. After a little prompting she remembered that she'd forwarded the letter onto the Argonavar ( a word meaning - he that makes appointments ). She directed the PCs to his office across the street.

Arriving at the Argonovar's office, a secretary led them in to see Davida Thelop. This old gentleman was sat behind his desk which was piled high with papers. When asked, he declared that he had no letter of introduction and started moving papers from one pile to another in order to prove he didn't have it. The search proved fruitless. The PCs pointed out that the letter of introduction had been sent over and demanded to know where it was. Davida suggest that they might have a word with Criate Xylander of the Tailorband, as it was the Tailorband's duty to transport documentation.

They wended their way to the office of the Tailorband and eventually discovered Xylander's office. They were led in and this well appointed gentleman offered them drinks. He then proceeded to explain how awful the paperwork system was, and that it could easily take months to process the sort of request they were making. The PCs started getting a greasy feel from this man, and they jumped straight to the point and asked him "how much?" They were shocked when he reported that something along the lines of 50,000Cr would be a suitable amount. In fact it raised their ire! After some unfriendly back and forth they left.

They were not done with Mr Xylander. A few of their mercs were encouraged to deliver a message to Xylander. The message included 50,000Cr delivered in a beautiful box, itself worth 50,000Cr which had to be handed to Mr  a back alley after he had been beaten into a state of extreme regret.

The next day found the PCs back in the office of the Argonvar. Apparently the missing letter had been found! The PCs noticed that the Argonvar's desk happened to have a certain beautiful box sitting on its surface, and that gave them pause for thought. The Argonovar gave them a new letter of introduction, this time to the Chief of the Guardsmans Directorate, a man called Carter Helum.

Carter turned out to be a bit of an officious ass and demanded to see their permits and permissions. "No one can just go and see the Secretary General!" After a short discussion he told the PCs that they might be able to obtain the required permits from Lee Arthurons, the Assistant Admissions Advisor.

Off they went to the next building on the strip to find Lee's office. When they found Lee, he was a pipsqueak of man and close to tears, as his boss Rarth Gillani the Admissions Advisor had been shouting at him! They asked Lee if they could get the permits and permission and he told the PCs that only his boss Rarth could issue those. Lee was too scared to go in and see his boss in case he started shouting again. Feeling a little sorry for Lee, the PCs went in to see Rarth on their own account. The man demanded to know what the heck they wanted, didn't they know he was busy, he didn't have time for interruptions, why didn't they get the hell out...They told him what they wanted, and when they introduced one of their number as the Marquis, the man calmed down enough to toss them a chit, telling them that would do.

As they left the office the PCs in a very comradely manner gave Lee their card, and suggest he could call if his boss got out of hand.

Back to the Chief of the Guardsmans Directorate. Carter was a little taken aback when they presented the chit, it wasn't what he'd expected, but it was more than sufficient. He quickly wrote them a letter of introduction to present to Kyle Soloiani, a Palace Security Guard.

They headed back to the palace asked one of the guards out front where they could find Soloiani, and it turned out to the the other security guard standing right there in front of them! Soloiani took a look at the letter, and told them they should go into the palace reception and speak to Shiela Cooperski...

The PCs remonstrated that they had started there! Soloiani realised what had happened and told them that they needed to see Daveland Wathoon who was the Proxy Insistance, as he'd be able sort them out.

They headed over to Daveland's office. When they told him that they wanted to see Secretary General, Daveland put his head in his hands and asked them if they were sure? They confirmed it. "Follow me," he said. and led them into the palace, through some very grand rooms and a kitchen and into a store room that had a hole in the floor and dirt scattered everywhere. Daveland dropped through the hole and led the PCs along an extensive hand-dug tunnel. At a point where it widened out a little Daveland stopped and told them to proceed as Taylor Ulebenga the Secretary General, could be found further on.

They crab-walked along the tunnel, the sounds of a pick striking rock getting louder and louder. At the face of the tunnel they found a man dressed in Imperial robes hacking at the rock with a pick. They had found the Secretary General.

In the ensuing conversation the PCs came to realise that the man was a nut job. In answer to the question "what are you doing down here", he told them he was building his legacy. A hollowed out moon dug with his own hands to pass on to those that some after. He calmly stated that he would be rejuvenated in order to finish this job which he thought would take 700 or 800 years. Nutter!

The sly old PC's discovered that the nutter didn't like being distracted from his "work" by all the silly Imperial business that Daveland kept bothering him with. So they played a game encouraging Daveland to keep bothering the leader and at the same time suggesting to the said leader, that he should perhaps teach Daveland a lesson by making him Secretary General and making him deal with all the "silly Imperial Business".

They returned to the tunnels the next day and it was but the work of a moment to get the Secretary General to flip out. He stormed up to his office grabbed the Imperial Seal, and with a joyous revenge handed it to Daveland making him the Secretary General, before heading back to his tunnel.

There were scenes of jubilation, the PCs were official witnesses to the handing over of power. They took Daveland aside for a moment to remind him who his friends were, and that favours would be well received.

There ended the session. After toppling the sub-sector government I think we can all call that a good session. :)

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hero Kids - review

Hero Kids, is an RPG designed to be played with kids and features PCs that are themselves kids. This is a review of the 2012 PDF version.

I was rather intrigued by the idea of a game designed specifically for kids, so downloaded this to check it out. The PDF is 39 pages long, and comes in screen and print-friendly versions. The cover features cartoon-like artwork, a style that carries throughout the game. In general it uses a two column landscape layout with artwork and diagrams scattered across most pages.

The premise of the game is that in a fantasy land all the adults in a village have disapeared and so the kids of the village will have to deal with any issues that come up, whether that's a fire in stables, or an evil wizard raising the dead. The missing adults is not a mystery to be solved (unless you want to do that), they could be out raiding, having a party or bringing in the harvest, the point is, the kids have to deal with the trouble.

So the book starts with an brief introduction to roleplaying, and I got the impression that this part was written for teachers, or group leaders rather than the regular roleplayer.

Then we get an introduction to the vale where the village resides and it nicely contains a lot of ominous sounding names, such as "Darkenwold Woods".

Combat rules are suitably simple and match the objective of getting youngsters into the hobby, with four combat related abilities each being assigned a number of dice. You roll your attack dice, defender rolls armour dice. The player with the highest individual die wins. Rather than having the classic Hit Point scale a character  gets bruised, hurt and finally knocked out. meaning that combat will not go on for too long. Incidentally, it means that every single roll matters!

None of the other mechanisms of the game are more complex that those described above, in fact they are generally very simple and this makes it an ideal first game. No complex rules explanations, no beginners-fear of getting things wrong, just straight forward rules.

After the brief character generation rules which are basically allocating dice to the four stats, there's an interesting page about playing the game with other peoples kids and a reminder to be careful of the subjects you cover. Then comes some hints and tips for the referee on how to handle playing with kids, common sense stuff to be sure, but worth the read, as you might be playing with complete newbies to roleplaying and many of us forget what that was like.

Then come five pages of pre-gen sheets. Each with its own drawn character, stats and abilities listed, along with a standee, ready to fold. I love this format. Print the page and hand it to the kids, get them to cut out the character sheet and the standee, making it a project as well as a game.

The last seven pages of the PDF is for monsters. Each type gets a character sheet of its own and a page of standees.

That's it. Simple. Everything about this game is simple, and beautiful. The cartoon look of the characters is excellent and non-threatening, the hints and advice for the adults clear and well thought out. I don't know about reserving this game for kids, that's clearly where it's aimed, but I'd play this at the drop of a hat. Like the awesome game "3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars", it's not about the dice rolls, but about telling the story the dice lead you to.

A quick scan of DriveThruRPG will let you see that this game has a bunch of scenarios to support it and colouring books too!  I was blown away at what a great idea colouring books were. Imagine playing the game then getting to relive the great moments with the kids as they colour-in the scenes they've just been playing in, an awesome idea.

A must buy for parents, I'm so glad I bought it.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alien Module 3 Vargr - review

This is a review of the PDF of the third alien module for the ancient sci fi RPG, Traveller.

The PDF is 52 pages long, and is a scan of an original well  worn 1984 printing. The cover is rather worn and showing its age. The text inside is perfectly readable and can be searched, although the scan isn't always as straight as you might wish.

The purpose of this module is to introduce a new sentient and playable race into the classic Traveller game, and from the outset I can tell you it does this very well.

The book starts by telling you what the Vargr are, a sentient bipedal race descending from Terran wolf stock, this leads to some major differences in appearance and character from humans. Namely that they look a good deal like upright dogs/wolves, and everything about their society is built around the pack mentality.

After the general introduction the module details their physiology, psychology, history, society, government, and military is covered in some depth. This is necessary as one of the stated aims of the module is to demonstrate just how "alien" these aliens are, They think differently, the behave differently, they are not to be thought of as humans with fur.

After this essay is a section on the Vargr language. As with the first two alien modules this section not only explains how it's structured and sounds, but gives you the tools to generate Vargr names and words, in fact the entire lexicon if you're mad enough to roll that many dice!

The next section gives you a grounding in Vargr character generation, explaining how the process is similar to, yet different to normal human rules. Those familiar with the core game's rules for character generation will find this easy to work through.

Next comes a section called "Gvurrdon's Story" . This section starts by giving a a short dictionary of Vargr words and then presents an ancient Vargr legend written entirely in the Vargr language. If you have players excited enough to do the translation, you should be scared, they are obviously nutters!

A full page diagram gives you a map of the Gvurrdon sector (not sub sector) for the players.

Then come additional character generation rules for the the Vargr equivalent of High Guard. Then come some rules for the Vargr Corsairs, a sort of Scout/Navy/Pirate mixed service.

The next section of essays informs us about the Vargr homeworld and gives the referee additional notes about the race when being used as Patrons and NPCs.

Then comes a short adventure based around the ancient Vargr text presented earlier, including a translation for the referee to use. The sector map is presented again with more detail for the referee along with the planetary stats. It's really more of an adventure seed than an full adventure.

In the classic Traveller style of book layout, there is very little art within the pages. In fact the only internal art is a medical diagram of a generic Vargr and a line art drawing of a Vargr 100-ton Scout. That's it. Really the only inspiration to be drawn from artwork is the cover of this work.

I stated at the start of this review that I liked this book. I do. The essays are a fascinating read, and if the author has managed to describe a government structure, in a way to keep me interested late at night then he must have done it pretty well! After reading this book, you get a good idea of how the Vargr are to be played as a race, and how they might fit in amongst a party of humans.

If you're playing classic Traveller, I would say this is a must-have for the referee. Not needed of course, as the core rules give you a complete game, but by adding the Vargr into the mix, you'll make your game worlds so much richer. At a price of just a couple of pounds, this PDFs was a bargain, and well worth it
I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Free Trader, goes digital!

A board game I developed a few years ago called "Free Trader" which has you on a solitaire mission flying around the galaxy dodging pirates and aliens as you try to pay for your space ship is now available in digital form on Android and iOS.

Baby Marsupial Creations LLC has given the game an all-new look but kept the core mechanics, so that if you're familiar with the board game version you'll be up an running with this digital version in next to no time.

Here are some screen shots for your visual pleasure:

The game is available on Android and iOS.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Classic Traveller, Decisions and Choices

Back to the Traveller campaign after a break for a...break. While the game was suspended I added in a couple of between session elements.

An xboat has just come in from the front lines of the fight with the Aslan, and brought this audio from an interview with one of the heroes of Operation Dynamo on Sobifat.

Listen to the audio (only 35 seconds)

Previous news has suggested that the heroic Imperial Army was going to take back Sobifat from the Aslan, but it seems it did not got too well.

The second bit of between session action:

A message arrives from David Lubik, your Recruiting Squire...

"Sir, I've got a group of … of... people, sort of. That're looking to sign up. They're Vargr sir. Actual live Vargr. Can you believe that?

"There are eight of them. I've been talking to them and they seem to be talking straight. I've been speaking to their leader, Goorrvu and he said they were raiding up and down this subsector until their ship got damaged. Corsairs! Now they need to get some work that pays well, so they can get their ship fixed.

"He says they're a team though, they'll only serve together as a unit, and only for a year. He says they have vacc-suits and weapons. And are ready to start straight away.

"Sounds like a good deal to me. be honest, I don't know how to read Vargr faces. This Goorrvu seems a bit shifty.

"Do I sign them up?"

Of course the players couldn't resist having a party of alien pirates on board so they signed them up.

Onto the session itself. Last time the session ended with the home team PCs turning down the job offer from Piertrie Hoolane a lady who had her money stolen by a husband gone bad.  However they had suggested she visit the other ship where the away-team PCs might be interested in some private work.

(As an aside here, they hired 4 engineers to get the old Bertrum35 ship's jump drive up and working)

She was invited into the ship and given drinks. Some careful wrangling, managed to get the offer up to 100,000Cr from the 40,000Cr she started at (10,000Cr less than she offered before). However she did suggest that they would need a team of 10. The deal was agreed with a handshake and she left.

Then the shenanigans started. Now they knew where the money was, who the target was, the PCs kind of agreed to go in, get the money, and anything else they could steal, and keep it all for themselves.

Next up was a little research into the target, a bit of computer skill came in handy. They discovered that her soon-to-be-divorced husband, Garty Jules, was a bit of a big wig.  He lived in a special dome for the really rich, and his house was a mansion in the middle of an estate, amongst other rich estates under this shared dome. It also turned out that he had a lot of financial fingers in various pies, including membership of multiple company boards. Indeed, he was on the board of the company he used for personal security (Kazbar Security).

And speaking of security, a look though the society papers revealed a picture of his security guards. They seemed to be packing some big hardware under their jackets, more than would normally be allowed under local law levels.

The PCs planning was wild and free form. Varying from trying to scare him with tales that the cops were coming for him, and that the PCs could sneak him off planet, right through to knocking on his door and shooting him between the eyes. However they settled for something more sly and devious. They have visions of vast horde of money laying around the mansion with expensive and saleable pieces of art that they could snaffle. Thus they want to get into his mansion for a look around.

Once again the captured/stolen Aslan robots inspired their approach. They thought to pose as business men selling this tech'.  If Garty can be convinced to invite them to a meeting they'll have the "in" they need.

The first step was to put together a sales video which they did with style. They then contacted one of the technology companies that Garty was a board member of and sent them the video. They also took the opportunity to send a copy of it to their arms supplier who's also looking to make a sale for them.

They took over a small factory unit and moved the robot in. They decided to brand themselves as "Killowns", the criminal family they became involved with a while back, thinking it could give them some cache. They talked the Vargr into helping them in their little private mission and they readily agreed, and thus provided a little "security".

A mid level sales representative and his bodyguard from the tech company turned up at their warehouse to take a first look at the robot. They let him in.

Change of scene!

We cut back to the home team who got a call from a potential customer. They went through the interview process once again. It turned out the customer wanted to hire the company to carry out a combat mission on the nearby planet of Rapreroos. The mission was to dress up as locals of Rapreroos and using local weapons attack a base on the planet. Everyone in the base was to be killed and the base raised.  They started asking questions about the base in question and it turned out to be an Imperial training base. The autocthones of Rapreroos were being recruited by the Imperium and trained in the base. There were thought to be around 2000 recruits and a training cadre of 200 or so Imperial marines.

There was a little talking around the project. Money was discussed, and 1 million  credits offered up front with another 5 million to follow. In the end one of the PCs, the Marquis in fact, could not bring himself to hire on the company to attack his beloved Imperium directly. The job was turned down.

Back to the factory!

The PCs were not impressed with being sent just a mid level sales guy. They put up a good front and told him that such a low level contact was not even allowed to the see the robot in action. He would only be allowed to see the robot stationary. The representative was very put out, but he tried to make the best of it.

While he took a look around the robot one of the other PCs started playing cards with the bodyguard. As they played he filled the chap in on the history and capabilities of the robot, giving him much more information than the actual company representative was getting!

As the representative was being shown to the door, some streetwise skillz were applied to ensure that he left knowing he'd been personally snubbed because he was too-low in rank and that he really needed to get his bosses involved.

Thus ended the beginning of the great caper. More to come next week!

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Political game design

I've seen some press recently where the media appear to be turning against whistle blowers. This seems rather dubious to me, a bad sign that the "system" is taking control of the media on this issue. Anyway that spurred me on to make a video about using game design to make a political point. It's a bit of a low-key rant to be honest, but there is a game in there :)

Watch and enjoy.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A holiday of gaming...

I've just returned from a short holiday, but my holiday gaming started before I even left. I had a few hours just waiting around the house before we started our journey. I decided not to let any of it go to waste!

First up was a dice game based on golf and called "Golo". It uses a handful of special D12s. My round of golf was exceptionally average, quite a feat considering I had two holes in 1!

Next up was a very very quick game of Zombie in my pocket. Moving into the first room, I was smacked down by a horde of Zombies. The second room was the target with the totem, nothing bad appeared but when I spent time to search for the totem, I was smacked by another horde of Zeds! Considering I was already very ill, it wasn't worth running away, and so the Zeds got to breakfast on my brains.

The next game was a real oldie. It was Game Workshop's "Chainsaw Warrior". I took I.R. goggles, wire cutters and a blaster. I went into that big 'ole apartment complex and started in on the trouble I found. I lucked out going through the first room deck. I managed to find an awful lot of empty rooms in which I only found 3 wandering zombies. I have never voluntarily taken wire cutters before, but during this game they were used four times to get me out of traps! I also found a secret passageway that let me bypass ten rooms! Sure I got bitten by a zombie, and irradiated twice but that's pretty normal in this game. Then just a few cards into the second deck I was finally worn down and the zombie venom took me out.

Then it was into the car for a four and a half hour long journey.

Somewhat tired I reached our destination. I admired the view for a couple of minutes and then broke out "Friday" for a quick session of helping Robinson survive the island. Right from the start it went really well. I made best use of all of the cards, and tried to limit the amount of life I spent destroying "zero" cards. By the time I got to the Red pass though the deck, there were only two cards left! Then onto the pirates. The first one was only a minor issue, but I asked my wife to pick the second one, she is after all a lucky charm for unlucky charm as it turned out. I got the 57 point card to defeat. Sheesh!  I started drawing cards, using every ability from every card to destroy ageing cards, doubling others, drawing more, then it came down to spending life to draw more cards. I had to use the abilities on those too! In the end I got a win, my first ever win of Friday, with only two life points left!!!

As night time drifted round I realised I'd forgotten to bring a book to read in bed. What's a gamer supposed to do? I pulled the Lore starter deck out of LoTR:The Card Game and had a read through the cards. I'd not looked at this one or played with it, so it was a bit of surprise to see how many healing cards are in the deck.

The first full day of holiday featured an afternoon snooze, followed by some graphics work on a card game I've been working on.

An early evening two player bout of Death Angel. It was the first time for my son, and he had no idea just how difficult this game was. I could tell he was ignorant of the true misery of this game, as he sat down with a beaming excited face, rather than grim concentration and angst. We managed to journey to the first room before everything went to crap. A killer event card moved all the genestealers onto a single marine. We struggled to whittle them down but we lost a marine with every attack and it was a quick demise to the stack of 10 genestealers crawling along the column.

With another loss to this vicious game I raised the oft stated question. If these are the toughest marines in the best armour the emperor can supply why the hell can't they hit anything with their blasters, and why the hell can bugs open their armour like a poorly made tin can?

Really, it is a good game, but it makes no sense with this theme, or rather the theme gives a lie to these being awesome soldiers. A better theme that would fit these mechanisms nicely, would be to replace the space marines with Strom Troopers from Star Wars and replace the genestealers with Ewoks!

Once again, bed time found me without a book, so I turned to a copy of the "Hero Kids" RPG that I had printed from the PDF for digestion while on holiday. Big bold print suited my aging eyes. I'll review that in a subsequent post.

So onto day two. I tried to solo LoTR:The Card Game using the core set's Lore deck. Wow. Tough. I ground out a defeat as the locations piled up their threat and prevented me from making any forward progress Nine threat was more than I could handle. I was all for giving up, and cheated to see if there were any cards coming up that would make a difference. Well, there was a Gandalf card a few turns away, but at a cost of 5 I would have been stuffed long before he became affordable. So I did give up. What did I learn from this game? Despite having a couple of good heroes there is a lot of chaff in this deck. Denethor seems pretty rubbish. I'm wondering what good being able to have a peek at the bad guys deck is supposed to do for you. So you know what the next card will be. Big deal, doesn't seem to change anything.

And so onto the evening where the encroaching east coast dark summoned forth Shudde M'ell to attack the Miskatonic. Joe Diamond and Jacqueline Fine leapt into action and ran around collecting Elder Signs striving to fight off the unending stream of monsters. I've never played a game of Elder Sign where so many monsters came out of the bag!. In the end old Shudde came out of hiding and we laid into him with everything we had. We got our share of licks in but the card-count-down won the battle for the bad guy (cheating)!

Now, I think our game play was exemplary under the conditions, but that the conditions led to us losing. What were these conditions? My wife was watching a kitchen sink drama from the sixties in glorious black and white! I hate these films. Full of whining idiots bemoaning the the social stigma of the day. To me, it's all boring pointless waffle. How anyone can call that entertainment I don't know. Still, she's never understood the appeal of giant fighty robots either.

So onto the next day. My first game was another run at LoTR:The card Game, but with my first custom deck. I'm still playing the first scenario, and opted to mix Lore and Tactics in a 45 card deck. I took Gimli and Legolas from Tactics and Beravor from Lore.

It was a surprisingly easy win. There was one time where the locations started to build up and I feared  getting trapped in a too high threat situation, but a timely play of Gandalf jumped me passed that issue. I had loaded Gimli with the Citadel Plate and Dwarven Axe, thinking to use him to pound the bad guys. In the end though, I ended up pitch most of the enemies as Legolas, in order to use his defeat-enemy-progress-quest ability. He did get pounded, but every time I was able to use the Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal him back up.  After one play, I feel it's a good deck and I'm itching to use it against the second scenario. I think next time, if given the choice I'll give the armor  and axe to legolas to aid in progressing the game, regardless of the threat in the staging area.

It was time to do a little RPG work. In this case continuing to flesh out a couple of sub sectors for the ongoing Classic Traveller I'm running. It's a slow process for me. Not the numbers but trying to come up with a few lines to describe each system. A rationale if you will for the stats that were generated. Managed to finish off one sub sector and start on the next. This second one looks to be more interesting as it has lots of yellow and red travel zones.

I might also say that my holiday is not all game related. I also started reading a book by the amazing Harold Coyle, of "Team Yankee" fame. This one is called "Trial by Fire" and is a military fiction book, I've wanted to read for quite some time. U.S. Forces vs Mexican in a limited fashion. Of course some of the scenarios from this book "might" make it into my Traveller campaign. :)

I'm also a wee bit of an author, so late into the night I continued work on my Science Fiction gamebook. About a week ago I finished the last editing pass. The next step which I started on this night, was to run the raw text through my gamebook validator. This is a program I wrote to check for basic errors in the structure of the game book and boy oh boy, two hundred and fifty problems! I managed to work my way through them and started formatting the text for publication.

The next day of the holiday really was more work than play. More formatting of the game book until it was done. Then I started on another editing pass through this formatted text. Often viewing your writing in a different format allows you to see things you overlooked before. It was true here too. I only managed to edit the first 50 entries (of 402). More tomorrow. But then it was back to working on my space game. I managed to draw four asteroids and a battlestar as terrain and focus points for scenarios.

Game wise, the only game I got to actually play was a two player game of LoTR:The Card Game, where I played with my custom deck and my son worked with the default Spirit deck. Again we went through the first scenario and it was a breeze. The Spirit deck held up it's end of the bargain and so did mine, however we really lucked out by reaching the third card and the Ungoliant Spawn was already in play and hacking Gimli to pieces. I lost Gimli, but we got there in the end with our second LoTR victory of the holiday.

The next day led us back to Elder Sign. First I solo'ed a game against Cthulhu and kicked his butt (wait for it). Then I coached my son through his first solo. At one point I mentioned that he was missing an opportunity to put dice on the next task and he calmly pointed out that "he wasn't going to cheat like I had". I grabbed the rules and to my horror discovered he was right, you CAN ONLY work on one task at a time. There went my joy at defeating Cthulhu. I was a big cheating b*stard!

In other news I finished up the art work for my card game, proof read the next fifty entries in my sci fi game book and wrote up the details of four more planets for my Classic Traveller game. All in all a good day of gaming related endeavour apart from the Cthulhu-incident which will not ever be mentioned again (but at least now I know how to use those spells!).

No more games, as the next day was tidying up the place and driving home.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.