Category Archives: Aliens

Anything about aliens.

GURPS Aliens for Traveller

GURPS AliensIn 1990, Steve Jackson Games published GURPS Aliens, a compendium of Aliens for any sci-fi campaign. What about Traveller? Stat wise, the aliens can of course be used in GURPS Traveller as is, and conversion keys exist for other Traveller rule sets, so that’s not a problem. How to fit the Aliens into the setting of Traveller, however? Here are a couple of suggestions that should work for any published Traveller setting from Classic Traveller on, including the Rebellion, The New Era, The founding of the Third Imperium, or The Rule of Man.

The Markann for Traveller

Everyone knows the stories of giant spider apes that prey on travellers in the dark are just tall tales told by spacers who have been away from civilization a little too long. Everyone is wrong.

The Markann are secretive, high-tech, and insane. In Traveller they are constructs of one of Grandfather’s children, left over from the final war of the Ancients. Very long-lived, they reproduce by cloning. Still their numbers have steadily declined over the many millennia since the destruction of their creator. The Markann inherited the technology of their creator and assumed its role as master and mad scientist. However, they don’t understand the technology. They can operate it and use it to build preprogrammed designs, including themselves, but they cannot reproduce it or extend it.

The Markann dwell largely in hidden bases in asteroids and on moons, though there are a handful of hidden fortress labs on habitable planets. Many facilities house only a single Markann and its slaves. Only one facility retains the ability to build ships. This binds the Markann into a loose culture of dependence and distrust and keeps them from spreading too far. Slaves taken from surrounding settlements and lost spacecraft are trained to keep the facilities and provide stock for the Markann’s horrifying experiments. The Markann mimic their lost creator in trying to reform life, but with a fundamentally flawed theory they resemble the mad scientists of gothic literature and are doomed to perpetual failure. Their offences accomplish nothing.

The Markann have one model of Ancient spacecraft still available. This ship is a spherical spacecraft mounted in a detachable star drive section. The main spherical craft is used for planetary landings while the star drive remains in orbit or hidden elsewhere in a system. The star drive is a ring that fits around the sphere with three long, curved prongs extending both directions. The volume enclosed by the prongs is an ovoid. The prongs spread apart to release the spherical core craft. The ship can also capture small craft between the prongs and transport them bodily in jump space. Almost always only a single Markann is among the crew of a ship.

Markann Adventure Seeds

Monsters from the Dark
At some point in their adventures, when the characters’ ship is crippled in free space, a Markann ship approaches, boards, and takes the crew and passengers back to a hidden base where they become slaves or experimental subjects as suits their aptitudes. The characters must escape. Taking other captives along is optional. Surviving pursuit is mandatory.

Chasing Nightmares
Characters visiting an isolated world are told tales of monsters that snatch people in the night. While they are there, a raid takes place. The Markann grab a macguffin, a person or object, important enough to motivate the characters to pursue. The spherical landing craft has very high acceleration. (It has maneuver drives powerful enough to move the combined ship.) The initial chase is unsuccessful and the characters must quarter nearby systems for a hidden base to retrieve the macguffin.

The Memer and Saret in Traveller

In the Traveller universe, the Memer and Saret are a space faring minor race that does not build jump drives. At the time of contact the Memer and Saret had been space faring in their own system for many thousands of years and were living on every rock bigger than a cobblestone, their existence as a planet bound species only myth. Purchasing jump drive capable ships from humans, large numbers of Memer and Saret (though an unnoticeable fraction of their population) travelled to the stars, not just trading, but also establishing new settlements. Memer and Saret physiology allows them to out compete any other species in settling and exploiting a single star system. In the thousands of years of human contact over empires and interregnums, the Memer and Saret have come to absolutely dominate a significant cluster of star systems. Small human populations exist in Memer and Saret systems.

Trade with the Memer and Saret is very lucrative, but selling them jump capable vessels is a serious, sometimes capital, offence in many systems on the periphery of the space they dominate. The Memer and Saret buy whatever jump capable ships they can. Ships in the worst state of repair are still valuable to them as long as the jump drives work. Thousands of these junker ships ply the star lanes ranging far from Memer and Saret space. Many of these ships are purchased at the extreme limits of Memer and Saret trading routes where the appeal of a quick profit outweighs the fear of an infestation. As traders they are welcome, but viewed with great suspicion. Most human systems do not allow Memer and Saret to settle in any manner.

Memer and Saret Adventure Seeds

Repatriation
A Memer and Saret junker ship has broken down several jumps away from their space. The jump drive is irreparable and the local authorities don’t want the crew hanging around and maybe establishing a permanent presence. The characters’ ship has been hired, or the characters have been hired to crew a ship, to transport the Memer and Saret back to their space while their ship is dropped in the local sun.
The involuntary passengers won’t be any trouble. The whole lot can ride in the cargo bay and they don’t need any life support. They almost certainly won’t interfere with any other cargo or ship systems that pass through the bay. They’ve been asked not to.
Any system en route that doesn’t have a Memer and Saret ship in dock to take the passengers will require the transport to spend as little time in system as possible and have as little contact as possible. Any Memer and Saret ship not heading back to their space will refuse to take the passengers, even if local authorities allowed it, even if the characters can figure out how to ask.
Did anyone think to ask where the Memer and Saret crew came from in the first place?

Delivery
A ship dealer has made a good profit selling a write-off ship to the Memer and Saret. The characters have been hired to deliver the ship to the customer, at a rate that doesn’t cut too deeply into the broker’s profits. The ship is mostly flight worthy—the jump drive works. The route passes through several systems that prohibit the sale of jump drives to the Memer and Saret.

Traveller in a Bottle
The characters have broken their ship in Memer and Saret space. They need to book passage back to a human system on a Memer and Saret ship. This will require them to live in their suits for the trip or rig something else up. The Memer and Saret will accept title to the characters’ ship as payment. The jump drive is probably beyond their ability to repair. The characters will certainly be required to certify on their return to human space that the drive was destroyed beyond repair.
(Alternative: one character travels back to human space to get parts while the rest keep the ship out of alien manipulating appendages.)

Valerian Movie

We went to see the Valerian Movie. I have been looking forward to this for a long time. After reading some initial reviews, I was a bit worried that it wasn’t very good.

Click to see image at Valerian Movie site:

But it was good. Not as good as I hoped it would have been, but still good. Luc Besson has made his own version of the comic Ambassador of the Shadows. In Luc Besson’s version some things have been simplified. Some new elements have been added. There are also some surprises that is quite different from the comic.

Click to see image at Valerian Movie site:

The Shingouz doesn’t look like they did in the comic. I liked their double trunk in the comic better. But Rihanna as a Suffuss (Glamourpod) shapeshifter was a positive change.

Click to see image at Valerian Movie site:

Luc Besson avoided the complications of having time travel as an option in this film. (It was necessary for the new plot to avoid it.) But that also changed Laureline’s background.

The origin of Point Central (Alpha) was also changed. But that was a really cool addition and was explained in a very nice way in the beginning of the film.

A strange addition was the trans-dimensional market. There is nothing like that in the comic.

But changing the Shadows into the Pearls. That was a great idea.

So overall, there was some bits I liked a lot and some bits that I wasn’t very fond of. I also thought that Dane DeHaan as Valérian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline were too young. There was no good explanation in the movie why they were galactic agents. The CGI was fantastic. I have nothing else to say about that.

But you must also read the comic if you haven’t already done that. Even though this was a good and fantastic film, I like the comic better.

So what can be useful for Traveller?

1: The aliens. There are lots of alien races to be inspired by.

2: The space-station Alpha. That could be an interstellar United Nations in an ATU. (It is like Babylon 5, but bigger.)

3: The Astroship (Alex) that Valérian and Laureline use is a great scoutship for any setting.

A Call To Arms

Another interesting book with interesting aliens that I have recently read is A Call To Arms by Alan Dean Foster.

Some of us may remember Alan Dean Foster’s terrible Star Wars book The Splinter of the Minds Eye. But it was a long time since I read that book. What I still remember about it was that it didn’t really fit into the Star Wars canon very well. So maybe it was just that problem and it may not have been that poorly written.

Anyway, I decided to give his “The Damned” series a chance. A Call To Arms is the first book. The cover looked cool, but it turned out that the aliens in this book was quite poor warriors. Most aliens was quite poor at most things. They were like 0-points aliens from GURPS Aliens. All aliens had disadvantages. No aliens was good at warfare.

The reason given for the aliens to be bad at warfare was that an advanced race would (normally) have to abandon all sorts of violence to become an advances race. This is something that would normally happen in the race’s prehistory. This is a quite interesting idea.

The problem was that there was a big interstellar war going on… A race called the Amplitur wanted all other galactic races to join what they call the Amplitur Purpose. A number of races think this is a bad idea and has formed what they call the Weave. Neither side has any good soldiers. Then the Weave find the Earth… This is just the start of the book.

A Call To Arms

The book is really good and the different races are well describes. The plot is interesting. I think there are lots of ideas that can be mined for your Traveller setting here. This may even inspire you to come up with a new Traveller setting.

This book is the first one in The Damned Trilogy. I will try to find and read the other two.