Monday, November 25, 2013

The Worlds of the Cantonment, Part 1

Veles Subsector (Rimward subzone only)
0109 Nova Marlankh B5658A8-B G
Terraformed world ruled by the loving yet firm hand of the Indomitable Overlord. Freedonia D333575-8, the current arena for the Coupbox, orbits the innermost gas giant in this system.

0208 Kugelworld C546525-9 Non-Industrial G
Little peaceful backwater planet founded by pioneers-bolos during the Autonome Upheaval. Part of Bolospace, the semi-autonomous region of three worlds still run by traditionalist bolos.

0207 Unarres C3326622-9 Poor G
Arid little world that served as the birthplace of the Autonome movement. Known for its interminable consensus meetings and interpretative dance routines. Seat of the Bolospace Council.

0310 Vesworld C450213-4 Non-Industrial G
Desert world wholly owned by the Vesworld Corp, an entertainment conglom that has recreated an “Old West sim” planet complete with life sentence prisoner-actors.

0207 Kanus Major D553663-7 Poor
Dogoid reservation world, run with enlightened vigor by the Department of Vargr Affairs.

0304 Xhom C10036A-B
Tiny, barren microworld housing the original Robodwarf mothership—and a place of exile for the most recalcitrant and disobedient of that strange replicant race. Urban legend says that deep under its crust lies a covert massive poison-gas manufacturing facility. Bullshit or not, a full-strength battalion of Astro-Marines keeps an uneasy eye on the planet.

0304 Planet X D479736-7 G
A near water-world, what population isn't clustered on the small equatorial island chain lives on the backs of great chained sea-turtles. Ruled by the Golden Kandive and his ministrial cronies.

0305 MONGLO A88598B G
Capital of the Cantonment where the Overrada (the nominal-ruling confederal parliament) and Civil Services are headquartered.

0307 The Vermillion Zone XA87???-? RG

Entry is strictly verboten.

Inner Weirdspace
Inner Weirdspace Subsector
0801 Outpost Nine C446353-9 S  Non-Industrial
Windswept, hard-times homebase of exploro-bolos. The Cantonment's foothold in the subsector with a newly established base of the Blackstars. 

0501 Unnamed E577668-3 Non-Industrial, Agricultural G.
A mesa and crater filled world where the low-lying areas unbreathable by humans at sea-level due to the presence of great coulds of organic red buds. Human civilization clings to the tops of mesa-lands and seems to be held captive by a xenophobic alien race inhabiting bases on the black ice southern polar region and the planet's moon. Massive abandoned space hulks hang mysteriously in orbit. 

0302 World-Steppe X686541-2 Non-Industrial G
A fair, pleasant world dominated by a large supercontient and vast grassland-like interior. Predominant culture seems to be a relatively-low tech group of nomadic tribes that travel the steppes in giant sailed-wagons. The native handcrafted goods are quite beautiful and recent contact with an unscrupulous exploro-bolo has begun a craft-for-autorifle trade exchange that undoubtly will have little effect on the cultural/political life on planet. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Space Cantons Library Data: The Service and Civil Society

The Cantonment Army
Since the Great Mutiny of the Upheaval, the Army stubbornly remains one of the most socially egalitarian of the interstellar bodies. At the start of each four-year term (staggered in four annual cohorts) raucous barrack-caucuses politick and polemicize around officer and NCO elections. Even with the furious electioneering—and the one-year universal conscription of middle school students (the source of our widespread 0-level familiarity with Gun Combat and Vacc Suits, I remind you traveller) that reduces even the crustiest of Army DIs to tears of frustration—morale, discipline and espirit d'corps is consistently high all the same--perhaps due to the deeply-engrained regimental tradition that honors those bodies as much as ancestral personages.

The Cantonment Navy
While the Army is in the hands of the egals, the Navy remains solidly ancien regime. The sons and daughters of the old titled aristocracy graduate from lazy teen days of running space yachts to that of running 20,000-ton space-dromons with all the ease of blue blood. Though by law rankers are allowed to take commissions, they find it difficult to climb without the right string of titles. Which is, of course, the proper way of things, what, what.

The Scout Service
Formerly known as the Department of Anomalous Removal, or more colloquially the Blackstars, the branch has been charged for centuries with the mission of exploring the many ACOs (artifacts, planetoids, alien ships, etc) that floated through the barrier of the pocket universe—and promptly blowing them with up. Since the Cantonment's popping back into the known galaxy a scant decade ago, the service has slowly broadened its mission (mostly) embracing the idea that other worlds are actually worth visiting.

The Astro-Marines
A department of the High-Ministry of Infrastructure and Orgone Accumulation, the Astro-Marines maintain a fearsome reputation as an elite fighting force. State hospitals, journalism colleges and penal colonies provide a major pipeline of psychotics to keep the Marines in fighting trim.

While the Cantonment is no stranger to military pronunciamentos, moral panics, sports riots and the like the greatest, most-lasting and paradoxically least-bloody insurrection of the Pocket Universe Period was the Autonome Upheaval and Admantine Compromise of 80-90 years ago. Part of that legacy is the survival of the many varied worker-owned/run coops, communes, gigantic tank-rental agencies, etc. styled bolos

Though traditional bolos (internally anarcho-communistic intentional communities that get by almost entirely on the gift-economy) are rarely found off the three semi-autonomous worlds of bolo-space, cooperatively-run outfits still operate everything from plastisteel foundries to mercenary companies to Weirdspace exploration.


Joint-stock companies are antique relics mostly involved with marginal industries such as marketing and potting soil manufacture, but congloms, the sprawling family-owned semi-feudal companies with impossible names, abound. A bastion of the lower gentry and upper managerial caste, the congloms have catapulted the financial and political power of that class (often above that of their titled betters)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

STARSLUGS and the Sharing of Traveller Worlds

While most Cantonment citizens, rightly, find their new sectoral neighbors in the greater Traveller galaxy to be under-subtle, spindly-legged, and too easy in their toleration of the jackboot to be fully trusted, political realities after leaving the confines of the pocket universe maintain that we must at least keep up appearances of genial diplomatic relations.

The newly-elected Septentrional Party of Apricity and Numismatical Frugality (Blue-Green), while promising to exude the studied non-nonchalance of the previous administration, has bowed to popular pressure and signed the STARSLUGS Conventions to regulate the management of the bug-eyed hordes as they travel the Space Cantons (and our own beloved comrade-citizens travel the Terran Directorate and other soon-to-be tolerated bodies).

A series of “blog posts” will help guide new Travellers to the subtle magnificence of our fair polity is forthcoming.

Close enough.
Simple Translation Agreement Rules Simulating Lastingly Unified Galactic Sectors
In order for freetraders in the Space Cantonment, Directorate Space, and other willing sectors, to prosper and thrive, the referees of those campaigns have set out the following articles in order to ease movement between them.

Article 1
Characters may move between Directorate Space and the Space Cantonment freely provided they meet the standards required in other articles.

Article 2
Characters are bound by the rules of the version of Traveller being used in the game they are currently playing.  This includes things such as the rules for combat (both personal and ship-based), weapon damage, the functions of certain technological items, etc.

Article 3
There is one exception to the rule presented in Article 2: skills.  Characters use whatever skill they possess that is closest to the one in the system currently being run.  This means that characters from the Cantonment (and possibly other CT games) possess broader skill categories than those the Directorate.  Skill acquisition is also based on the characters native system, and not on the system currently being run.  Skill rolls function as other items described in Article 2.

Article 4
Characters may bring their own personal effects with them, but not those held in common with other members of their party/crew.  This includes any ships the characters rolled on the benefits table, assuming the ship is being used by other party members.

Article 5
Psions, astropsychics, and aliens must submit their characters to the referee at least 48 hours in advance so that the referee has the time to read over any relevant sections of their rules/come up with how certain foreign abilities work in their area of space-time.

Representing the Cantonment: Chris Kutalik
Representing the Terran Directorate: Evan Elkins  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pen and Paper Battle Rules for Classic Traveller

With session three of the Traveller Coupbox coming on I smell a battle approaching. Taking the well-honed skirmish rules from Deep Evan and I's Feudal Anarchy (work in progress, yeah yeah) and crossing them with the basic combat rules from Striker yielded an alien hybrid, tongue-in-cheek styled Galactic Anarchy, that just might work in the miniature-less G+ environment (one of the greater losses, really).

All feedback appreciated. For space reasons I left out a few sections on this post (such as the all-important chart for determining actual casualties for team hits). Drop me a line if you are interested in those sections.

Galactic Anarchy
Basic Unit
The basic unit is the "team" made up of five combatants (or a 1-3 heavy or support weapon team). Each team fires, moves and checks morale as a single unit.

The weapon fired in a round is always the majority weapon of the team. A team that is equipped with significantly better or worse weapons in the minority will be given a positive or negative modifier at the discretion of the Ref.

Attack Value
For teams made up of PCs or named NPCs the average weapon skill of the majority weapon (rounded to the nearest whole number) is used. (A Tactics skill of 2+ in the team will add a +1 in all cases).

For other teams use the following:
Raw Recruits/Conscripts/Poor
Trained Recruits/Militia/Green

To Hit
Automatic fire warrants a second roll.
Roll 2d6
Effective Range/Melee
Long Range
Extreme Range
-1 if unit has taken a hit (see below).

When a unit is hit the attacker rolls below.
Roll 2d6
No Effect
One Hit
Two Hits
+weapon penetration value (see Striker or Megatraveller tables)
-defensive value (see yesterday's post)

Each team can take a certain number of fights before being "out of the battle" (see actual casualties below).
Raw Recruits/Poor
Green or Regular
Vets, Elite, PCs
Combat Round
Phases in a Round
1. Both sides declare movement and check for spotting of hidden units
2. Both sides move. Opportunity fire.
3. Ranged fire for those who haven't had opportunity fire.
4. Both sides finish declared movement.
5. Melee combat

When to check:
  • taking fire for the first time in a battle
  • taking fire from hidden source
  • taken a hit in the round
  • friendlies routing in eye-shot
Roll 2d6
Raw/Poor 8+
Green/Militia 7+
Regular 6+
Vets 5+
Elite 4+

Morale Results
If failed by 1-2 the team is pinned (goes to ground, can't move but can fire/melee)
If failed by 3-4 the team is suppressed (retreats to nearest best cover, can't move or fire but will melee if attacked)
If failed by 5+ the team routs (run away!)

+1 in a "secure position" (behind cover)
+1 leader in voice range with Leader or Tactics 1
+2 leader in voice range with Leader or Tactics 2
-1 team is already pinned
-2 team is suppressed
-3 if routing

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Alternative Classic Traveller Combat

With my rose-tinted glasses in full nostalgic effect, I often forget how deadly Classic Traveller combat is. Tuesday's game in which poor Nazrut, the OG dogoid pilot of Deep Evan, was gunned down in all of two rounds in an ambush by soldiers of the Kral served as a pretty stark reminder.

While I am not shy in having a PC up and die, I prefer a slightly less punitive game. 

What follows is a slimmed down adaption of the Striker/Megatraveller that is designed to get rid of the hard-to-remember armor to-hit mods and one-hit-and-out wounding system for my growing house rule compilation (more about that later today). 

Feedback as always greatly appreciated.

To Hit by Range
Roll twice for automatic fire or scatter effect (shotgun pellets or flechettes).
Short/Effective/Melee 8+
Long 10+
Extreme 12+

Roll 2d6 on hitting a target. Roll for separate hits if using automatic fire.
2...Graze, no real effect
3-5...Light Wound, -1 to hit, next hit upgraded one level in effect.
6-9...Wound, stunned for 2d6 rounds, -2 to hit after that, next hit upgraded.
10-11...Serious Wound, unconscious until medical attention, can't fight, or move without assistance, next hit upgraded two levels.

plus Weapon Penetration (see Striker chart, mostly 1-3 for firearms and melee weapons)
minus Defensive Value (see below)

Defensive Value
Basically your armor plus any ability modifiers.
Steel Helmet* +1 (add to any other armor)
Jack 1
Mesh 2
Flak Jacket 3
Cloth 5
Ablat 1 (6 for lasers)
Reflec (10 for lasers)
Combat Enviro Suit 6
Combat Armor 8
Ceramic Plate* 10
Battle Dress 12

*Steel Helmet, Tech 5, 100cr
Ceramic Plate, Tech 12, 30,000cr

5 and under -1
9 and over +1

5 and under -1
9 and over +1

5 and under -1
9 and over +1

Mr. Pink (37A569) buys himself a steel helmet (pickelhaube-style) and a Flak jacket for a DV of 4. His bad STR (-1) cancels out his considerable END (+1). In the first round of combat the poor sap gets hit by a slug from an ACR, penetration 4 which cancels his DV on the roll. Luckily the roll  is a 3 and he gets off with a light wound. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Galactic Anarchy and other Traveller Whoha

The first session of the Classic Traveller mini-campaign (the admittedly clumsily-titled Coup Box) kicked off last week and I had a splendid time keeping up with the machinations of the players. An hour into the session they were already scheming to double-cross their patrons and install a pro-Dogoid (really Vargr is such a loaded racist term) rights regime after their coup.

In my usual fit of over-doing it I added a few more elements to liven it up. The first was recruiting old homegroup standby, Mack of Super Galactic Dreadnought, to play the part of Admiral Mahkson, a former Cantonment Navy ensign turned Minister of Internal Affairs of the Kral (the coup target). Over three matches of X-Wing Saturday, he has already injected a few devious notes into the mix.

Knowing that some large-scale battles were coming down the pike, I spent sometime this weekend marrying Deep Evan and I's much-tested pen-and-paper skirmish rules for Feudal Anarchy with some elements of that old Traveller minis warhorse Striker. If you'd like to see the draft version (and promise to give me some feedback) drop me a line.

But now the news.

Tonight on Raving Foxoid Holostem News...
Monglocorp has wrapped up its aggressive acquisition of the intellectual rights of Logsoph and now holds exclusive rights to the concept of Ontology. In newly-issued generous licensing terms, personages uttering or expressing an inquiry into the nature of Being are now obliged to post or state a trademarked statement and to pay a modest 10CR royalty to the conglom.

Two-Hour War hero Colonel Zog has been abducted by “men foul and rough” from his tower-flat according to his beloved niece Kocka. Missing since yesterday, the Novo Marlank police have promised a “full and thorough investigation into the matter just after they clear off the current caseload.”

The civil war on Freedonia continues to have everything change and stay the same. Three firefights this week “timed out” when the 20-percent casualty caps were reached leaving front lines much the same. In this ever-fracturing war a fifth grouplet, the Polar Autonome Commonwealth, a minority, northen-based splinter from the radical decentralist Microbalkanizers, has thrown its own factional hat into the ring.

In other news on the moon, in a holo-press release from the Kral state new service, the government of that isolated city-state has declared that the southern town of Zumhaa has been renamed to Autokratorstad in order to best honor the “30th jubilee-year of our most beloved Maximum Leader's reign.” Hysterical tears of joy were expressed around the ceremonial bark-tea and mollusk-cookies tables by the rounded-up crowd.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Grab-Bag Details of the Traveller Coup Box

Welcome to Unterzone
How a Soldier-Bolo is Run
Traditionally there is a division between “bolo-members” (i.e. the PCs and skilled NPCs they dig) who have a full vote and a single share in the division of the mission's payout and “soldier-associates” who generally get a “consultative” (i.e. ignored) vote and a straight monthly salary of 300 credits for a raw recruit, 500 for a veteran and 600 for a veteran officer/mercenary. Bolo members are taught the semi-secret artificial language of Asa-pili. 

As per Book 4, recruitment drives take two weeks. Basic training takes six weeks for raw recruits and here PCs can employ a range of skills (over 2) with some potential benefit to the trainees.

Click to enlarge. 
The Map
Each hex is 20 miles. Dotted red lines are the semi-official borderlines of each polity. In reality they are highly fluid and poorly policed. The ugly black lines represent a magnetic monorail line. Questions can be asked of particular points at the briefing.

Weapons, Material and Recruits Sources
Skills of Streetwise, Admin, Forgery or Bribery over 2 will be of particular use here and will “unlock” certain options (let me know if you are playing a character who qualifies). Players are naturally encouraged to think outside of the box and come up with whatever insane ass caper they want to come up with this stuff.

On World
Mama Hoss, the arms merchant queen of Unterzone, deals with all factions. Selection limited to Tech 5 “hunting weapons” (mostly rifles) and prices high. May have a few specials though for the “right buyer.”

ROFF, the dogoid rights party, is rumored to be upgrading its stock of older grenade launchers and may part with some of them. All factions have agents and semi-official consulates in Unterzone.

The Maximalist Party is rumored to be selling off some lightly-armored, wheeled ATVs and some Combat Environment Suits it allegedly heisted from a Brotherhood for the Maintenance of the Way cache.

Recruitment drives can be run in Unterzone or one of the local belligerent city-states of Pikkaro, M'skrip, Longkoal, Ulkins or Pahka (though these states have possible dangers, civil war you know). Each will net 1d6 raw recruits and a chance for 1d3 veterans.

On Novo Marlank (2-day inter-system round-trip)
Astro-Marine tweakers in the starport base maybe be enticed to have a small amount of weapons and gear go missing. Beware, they ripped off a major stash of powder from the previous party.

Oddly enough The Arsenal, the state-owned weapons manufacturer, may be a source. The Overlord's exorbitant taste for luxury has left the world government with a powerful need for hard currency (Cantonment credits), it is said that they won't look too closely at an End User Certificate (a diplomatic document stating that the weapons are to be used by a recognized polity) for small-to-medium sized weapon shipments of old and out-of-date weapons (Tech 8 mostly).

Recruitment here will net 3d6 raw recruits, 1d6 veterans and 1d3 veteran officers or mercenaries.

On Outpost Nine (2-week hyperspace round-trip)
The eccentric organized crime figure Three-Eyed Jac has a “mutually beneficial arrangement” that will provide some weapons.

Recruitment in this system will net 2d6 raw recruits, 1d3 veterans.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Traveller Coup Box Sitrep

This being the opening situation report for the Traveller mini-campaign I was pitching yesterday.

Freedonia (D333575-8) is a large terraformed moon orbiting Novo Marlank. It currently has a breathable atmosphere somewhere between thin and very thin and is dominated by a single, mostly barerock continent punctuated by large freshwater lakes and the occasional cultivated sap-forest preserve. Offworlders unused to the atmosphere cocktail typically wear light respirators to stave off fatigue and dizziness. Sadly it was well on its way to a nice cushy standard atmosphere before the Time of Woe fractured the terraforming efforts and left the giant CO2 generators idle (people are assholes).

For nigh on 70 years the moon's central government has ceased to exist with de facto micronations rising and falling around various generalissimo-type figures. Complicating the political situation even further are the cross-national political factions, meaning most of the polities are further riven with smaller internal struggles that lead to an utterly confusing and shifting set of small-scale wars.

Despite the relative bitterness of civil war, all factions are at least nominally adhering to the Cantonment Statues for the Polite Administration of Organized Killing. These so-called rules of war  mandate formally-declared, pre-determined pitched battles, regulate "casualty caps" for such battles, set rules for ceremonial dueling, limit the use of heavy weapons/wmds, and otherwise keep the war gentlemanly and prolonged/stalemated.

To date only two polities on the moon have managed to remain neutral: Unterzone and Kraldeset. Unterzone is a small city surrounding the decidedly shitty starport and has the feel of intrigue-ridden Istanbul in WW2—all the factions wheel and deal here with their agents. The Kral, the main arena of our coup box, has managed to steer clear of the civil war by way of its political/geographic isolation and sheer miserableness.

The Kral itself is a small (even by Freedonian standards) “city” state. Roughly two-thirds of its 30,000 or so citizens live in scattered plantation centers or mining camps with the remaining population hunkered down in the partially-domed city (town really) of the same name.
The Brief
The player's soldier-bolo (a democratically-run mercenary coop) has been contacted by The Ten, a group of Kral exiles hiding in Unterzone. The dissidents are a motley groups of former-opposition politicians, technopriests, ponzi bankers, clonemasters, pawnshop brokers and other upper middle class professionals lacking military experience. They welcome a “regime change” in their former home and after running a wildly successful crowdfunding project on Warstarter are prepared to pay a whopping 632,000 credits to a group who can complete that task in 99 days (after which the Cantonment Tax-Bots step in and confiscate the unused funds).

Though politically kept in line by the Vibes Committees, the thuggish militia of the Autokrator, the Kral's military is expected to be in a sorry, demoralized shape said to number in the 300-600 range and lacking any air, space, surface navy or heavy weapon components.

Map and more details of the city-state proper will be made available both at the brief and by any reconnaissance the players decide on.

Starting upfront budget of 100,000 credits to be paid in two monthly chunks of 50,000.

Although the bolo currently lacks a starship—the Cacafuego is currently impounded facing charges of alleged black lotus powder smuggling—a decrepit free trader, the Dapper Deodand, can be rented for around 10,000 credits a month (this includes bribes for the crew).

Securing arms, material and more manpower are all major obstacles.

The Cantonment navy is running a semi-rigorous naval blockade of arms and will confiscate and occasionally imprison those trying to break it. However small shipments (and the acceptable number hinges on the arbitrary assessment of the on-duty Astro-Marine officer) of Tech 5 and other “hunting weapons” are legal.

I will present a few leads and rumors for various illegal and semi-legal ways you can procure arms at or before the session. There are a number of ways to skin that proverbial cat.

Recruitment will be as per the wonderful subsystem in Book 4: Mercenary. Getting them there, organizing/training them and perhaps finding alternative ways to recruit others is the players' problem

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Traveller “Coup Box”

My reading habits as an early teen were pretty far-ranging (if not as obsessional and eclectic as my current ones). Beyond the standard fantasy/sf obsession and the low-hanging fruit of approachable literary books for that age (Huxley, Salinger that sort), one of my well-trod genres was the nexus of thriller, military adventure and espionage novels inexplicably dumped these days into the Mystery shelves of bookstores.

And of those books, the novels of  Fredrick Forsyth, Alaistar MacLean and John LeCarre held a prominent place. LeCarre survived and thrived in my re-readings as an adult, the other two seemed...well...rather badly written. A few dips back left me cold—--there's a slow punchline here--until recently. 

Randomly discovering the incredibly stunning story that one of those Forsythe novels, the Dogs of War, was in fact highly likely to have been a only-vaguely fictional retelling of Forsyth's own leading role in a real-life, mercenary-led (and failed) coup in Equatorial Guinea in 1973.

The highly-detailed, methodical, near-tedious novel—seriously, almost 80 percent of the book is given over to the logistics of preparing for the operation--suddenly made a great deal more sense and came onto my gaming radar screen. Reading it in that light with all the shenanigans of running guns, smuggling, exploring underworld connections, scouting the site and the final crescendo of the actual raid made me want to play it so bad.

So where and how to set it? Traveller with its wide-open supporting mechanics (hell there is a whole half a book on how to run mercenary companies) and military-oriented characters comes to mind

Long-time readers may remember a million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, blogs sucked less and landline telephones were still in use that I ran a Classic Traveller mini-campaign called imaginatively enough the Space Cantons. There was one news hook that the party never took up that seems to fit the bill perfectly for this kind of thing:
“A long-anticipated four-sided civil war has begun with a formal shaking of hands and credit-coin toss on the Novo Marlankh moon Freedonia . Tensions between the League for a Micro-Balkanized Moon, ROFF (a Dogoid-rights party), the Maximalist Party, and the Brotherhood for the Maintenance of the Ways have been mounting over the last year. The Cantonment Navy has announced that it will be maintaining an interdiction against gun-running to the moon with 'occasional rigorousness.'”
The Autokrator, what a dick

So here's the set-up for the “coup box”, a sandbox bounded by a single mission to overthrow the current government by any means necessary and a strict micro-geographical setting. In this case, I am going to go with a single city-state in the twilight zone of that moon, a miserable place called Novo Kraldeset (or just Kral by the locals) ruled by a neutral but authoritarian and batshit crazy warlord called the Autokrator.

The players will be either hired guns, scoundrels or idealistic recruits brought in by an ineffectual, yet affluent group of dissidents, called the Ten, who simply want to stage a coup and put themselves into benevolent power. In other words it's “here's a situation, players, go for solving it.”

I'm highly likely running it on Google Plus on Tuesday nights for six players as a two or so session palate cleanser for the main Hill Cantons campaign (that's been a bit star-crossed as of late). If you are interested, drop me a line and some details on the actual situation report will appear here by Friday.