The winner of the “Best ATU Product” category of the Zhodani Base Awards 2016 is: The Space Patrol from Stellagama Publishing.
This category always make me happy since you can always find so many cool ideas. This year The Space Patrol win. Not only because it is really good, but also because it could have been useful for one of my own campaigns. (Unfortunately it was published a bit too late to help me.)
Next category is “Best OTU Product“. The nominees are:
From The Ashes is a short supplement for the Cepheus Engine (‘CE’) and the Traveller SRD (‘SRD’) published by Stellagama Publishing written by Omer Golan-Joel. It covers five expansions characters united by the theme of character death and recovering from fatal injuries.
It firstly adjusts the usual meaning of ‘character death’ within normal play. If all three physical characteristics are reduced to zero, instead of rolling up a new character, From The Ashes provides straightforward rules for rushing a character to trauma surgery and recovering. But the devil is in the detail: there may be some permanent new injuries. This can add history to characters – the loss of a limb or eye makes them more interesting.
Secondly there is an adjustment to character generation, replacing the standard injury table which draws upon the definitions carefully established in the first expansion. It makes character injury during generation harsher but with more detail.
The supplement then provides for simple optional rules in combat for critical hit bonuses for Effect 6 hits, aligning hits against personnel with hits against vehicles. This does make the game generally more lethal.
Finally, two higher technology solutions to near-death injuries are presented: Cybernetic replacements at TL12, and complete body renewal at TL16. However, both come with possible serious side-effects in the spirit of the trauma rules.
At 15 pages total with 10 pages content, this is a very readable supplement that offers a variety of interesting expansions for characters who suffer from fatal injuries and have one last roll of the dice depending on the TL of their surroundings and the skill of the doctor operating. At the same time, character generation and combat get a bit more fatal. The result can be used by Referees to rescue NPCs from death but now they have one leg, or are blind, bitter and have history with the PCs.
But, of course, the primary aim is for PCs to have options to trade death for the possibility of an interesting set of scars.
The players are contacted by Susana Guusinkaa who tells them she runs a local charity, Zhovra Paqrkantsechto, that helps those in need on the on the planet Gatina in the neighbouring system, focusing in particular on those affected by the armed conflicts that intermittently occur on that balkanized world. They are currently raising funds to help a group of poor villages in the nation of Aluzinta who have had to leave their homes due to fighting occurring between their own government and that of the neighbouring country of Bajrith. The villagers are currently living in a camp made of temporary shelters in a safer area of the country but the conditions are very bad and many of them are suffering from exposure or malnutrition. Illness is also rife in the camp and some of the villagers are suffering from wounds they received before leaving their village. The aim of the fund-raising is to evacuate those most in need back to Fonda for the advanced medical care available there.
Unfortunately Susana has just received news that the situation on Gatina has become much worse due to a local militia involved in the conflict moving into the area where the camp is. This militia is made up of soldiers from a part of the planet that has deep historical animosity with the people living in the area the villagers are from. There is extreme danger to the villages from the presence of this militia and she fears that there will be a massacre if the villagers do not move on, however they are currently unable due to the presence of the sick and wounded who cannot travel. Therefore in order to avoid a potential tragedy Susana is trying to implement her plan immediately despite not all the required funds having been raised.
She asks if the players will provide transport for some of the villagers from Gatina to Fonda. She will pay standard fare plus 20% for each one (as many as the ship has the capacity to handle), both ways, even though she will be the only passenger on the outwards leg. Unfortunately due to difficulty with raising the funds on short notice it is not possible to pay the players until they return to Fonda, however she assures them that the charity has sufficient assets and pledged donations to cover the trip.
Fonda is a Zhodani client state and Psionics are used openly. Susana has some minor Psionic talents in telepathy and clairvoyance. Her awareness of the conditions on Gatina is partially through the use of these talents.
If the players insist on investigating further before accepting the job then Susana will attempt to hire another starship and the referee should determine if this is successful or not. If unsuccessful she will again attempt to engage the players, or if situation number 6 will leave the starport and seek somewhere to hide on planet. For each day of delay situation number 1 may escalate to number 2 and number 2 may escalate to number 3 (roll 9+ per day).
1. Once the ship has jumped into the Gatina system Susana will be in contact with her operatives and local government officials on planet to assess the current situation and to get authorisation for landing. It will soon become evident that the story of imminent danger was exaggerated – the militia is still a long way from the camp and the villagers are not in any immediate danger. Susana will direct the players to an appropriate landing area near the camp and then triage the villagers to select those most appropriate for transportation back to Fonda. They will board without incident and the trip back to Fonda will be uneventful. However on Fonda there are strict quarantine and immigration restrictions on arrivals from Gatina, as well as some local resentment of the resettlement of Gatina refugees in Fonda which this trip may be seen as. Consequently there will be delay offloading the villagers after landing on Fonda. This will take a number of days to resolve (1D) and there may also be a protest from a small group of locals (8+). Players with appropriate skills (admin etc.) may seek to resolve the bureaucratic impasse more quickly. The protest will not be dangerous unless the players over-react. Payment will be forthcoming once the villagers are debarked.
2. Once the ship has jumped into the Gatina system Susana will be in contact with her operatives and local government officials on planet to assess the current situation and to get authorisation for landing. It will soon become evident that the situation has deteriorated significantly and that the villagers are in imminent danger. Whilst descending to the designated landing site the ship will be shadowed by local military aircraft, although due to the low tech level their weapons will not be sufficient to threaten the spacecraft and they will not attack. During triage and loading of the passengers there will be encounters with local infantry units. The infantry will be generally hostile and threatening but will not immediately attack, however the situation may escalate depending upon player actions. Susana will attempt to convince the players to transport the rest of the villagers to a safer area some distance away, which will take them about three trips with a fully loaded hold. If the players decide to do this (no extra money is on offer as all of it is being spent on this mission as is) then tensions with the local military will intensify including, when loading for the final trip, the appearance of armoured vehicles which have enough fire-power to threaten the ship itself. There will be no problems on return to Fonda and payment will be forthcoming once there.
3. Once the ship has jumped into the Gatina system Susana will be in contact with her operatives and local government officials on planet to assess the current situation and to get authorisation for landing. From this she and the players will learn that unfortunately they were too late to save the villagers as the militia have already moved into the area, destroyed the camp and killed its inhabitants. Susana will ask the players if they will aid in finding any survivors and in documenting the sophont rights violations that have occurred. Any help they are willing to give will be accepted even if it is just doing a scan of the area from orbit. Orbital scan will be uneventful. On 4+ there will be 2D survivors hiding in the area around the former camp, who may be located from orbit but more easily tracked down from the ground. 1D mass graves will be evident from orbit which the players will be asked to investigate, along with the site of the former camp. If the players land they will find that there are military units remaining in the area that are a potential danger, particularly if they discover what the players are up to. If the players aid with the investigation and rescue any survivors they will be paid in full on return to Fonda. Otherwise getting paid the full amount will be difficult, although Susana will pay in full for the trip if the players are persistent.
4. As number 1 however once on the ground it will become apparent that the condition of the camp is not as bad as the players were told. The villagers seem in the main to be healthy, although quite miserable, and there is little evidence of disease and injury. In addition there are some of Susana’s operatives present (1D) who are reasonably well armed. The triage will consist of choosing particular passengers, who do not appear to be the most in need and also have some luggage to take with them. The story told to the players is largely a fabrication, Susana is actually charging large amounts of money to transport people in somewhat desperate circumstances to Fonda with the intention that they permanently settle there. The players actions in this circumstance will determine further events. If they do transport the passengers there is a chance they will not be permitted to debark on Fonda (10+). On this eventuality Susana and her associates will attempt to circumvent the prohibition in various ways such as obtaining fraudulent authorisation or attempting a clandestine landing elsewhere on Fonda (expecting the players to aid where necessary). They are also not above throwing the passengers out of an airlock whilst in space. If the players press for further money Susana will offer up to double the initial outlay. Any further disruption by the players will elicit threats and, if it continues, violence from Susana and her associates.
5. As number 1 however the camp will appear to have been abandoned. There will be, however, the requisite number of well dressed passengers waiting, most with large heavy luggage and a few of them armed. These are not actually villagers but are accomplices of Susana and mules they have hired to smuggle precious metals off planet. The precious metals have been looted from the treasury of Aluzinta by corrupt government officials. Players may negotiate higher payment if they realise what the situation is, as per number 4, however these criminals are even more inclined to violence if the players attempt to interfere. If the players go along with the plan there will be no other problems transporting the passengers to Fonda however if they return to either system they will likely be questioned by authorities regarding this journey and may ultimately face extradition to and prosecution in Aluzinta.
6. Susana is not actually part of a charity, which does not in reality exist. She has Cr 500,000 in her possession which has been obtained from a local criminal via a confidence trick and she is in need of a quick trip off planet. Gatina seems to her to be a good place to lay low. Once in the Gatina system she will direct the players to a landing site in a wilderness area not far from a major population centre. She will then attempt to leave the players with the excuse of finding the villagers, claiming they are not trusting of strangers so the players cannot accompany her initially. If they let her go she will not return, and head instead to the near-by city where she will get local transport to somewhere else on the planet. The players may be able to track her down after this but it will be very difficult. There are also likely to be problems with the person from whom the money has been stolen if they return to Fonda.
The short Mongoose Traveller adventure ‘The Bronze Case’ by Richard Hazlewood was published by Stellagama Publishing in May 2016. On the surface, the adventure concerns the transport of a Bronze Case through local areas on a backwater planet after the players respond to a struggle in their hotel in the middle of the night. But Hazlewood is also interested in involving the players in the politics of local gangs, industrial espionage, a climactic car chase, and the promise of a reward to intrigued player characters. Hazlewood and Stellagama Publishing aim to provide a Referee with everything he or she needs for a quick side adventure on a local world. It can easily fit into an on-going Traveller campaign.
The adventure is structured to clearly present each encounter or scene in the story in chronological order. No Traveller era is mandated, just a suggested world profile where the adventure might take place. The local gang politics and local history are generic enough to slot into many worlds. The Referee is provided with full character profiles for all important NPCs, and detailed references to the Mongoose rules for vehicles, equipment and other props needed for the story. The different encounters provide detailed advice to the Referee to deal with common player responses to the situation.
The Bronze Case takes place in a world where the law level has recently been raised to 9 as the result of local political developments which give rise to the complications with gangs in the adventure. Although the broad history is detailed, the local police force culture is not, but this leaves the Referee free to fill in details. At the beginning of the adventure we are introduced to an alluring woman who wants help dealing with a mysterious attack in the middle of the night. It is completely up to the players to respond – or the adventure ends at the beginning! Some good Refereeing may be needed to get this started without railroading the players; but this is an age old problem for all Referees. When the players respond they are drawn into her circumstance, and are made an offer of money to help. The apparently simple problem is to help “Amy” get a case to a particular facility. What is not revealed immediately is who is after it and why – but the Referee receives a full briefing on the background of gang territory and the local politics that produced the current situation. The climax is a vehicle chase and possible fire fight to overcome thugs who want the case for themselves. The ever-present threat of rival interest in the case keeps the story moving and provides motivation for the players to see the adventure through.
The layout is simple but effective. Castellani’s illustrations of “Amy” set a suitable action mood for the story. While there are only two graphics, the layout provides a Referee with easy access to all of the information needed. The short nature of the adventure means after one read-through, the Referee is ready for a session.
Hazlewood and Stellagama Publishing have successfully presented here a quick-paced side adventure with everything a Referee needs to run it. For those Referees who play other versions of Traveller, the information provided is easily enough to quickly convert to other Traveller systems. If successfully navigated, players will be rewarded with interesting contacts, and a Referee is free to flesh out further details in store for players’ return to the planet.
It was quite difficult to pick the winners of the 76 patrons contest this last year of the contest. There were 11 good entries to choose from.
But one Patron stood out from the rest. It was written in a very inspiring way. It may have missed the brief a bit since it may seem unethical (but the PCs should believe that they are stopping a crime, so it really isn’t unethical). It also may seem a bit copied from the Firefly episode “The Train Job” and using ideas from “Johnny Mnemonic” but it could also be played in many different ways. Anyway, I think it was the best one! The winner is Hypercognitive by Michael Brown. Well done and Congratulations!
Second place goes to Idol of the Space God by Roland Volz. It is a very fun idea that could be expanded into many related adventures using this church and/or the idols as a theme.
Third place goes to Hewitt’s Hog Rides Again by KJ Potter. Recovering that mortar and the military aspect of this and/or additional adventures using this makes this an interesting Patron.
Other winners are Marcus Maximus ($ 15) for being the most productive contestant.
Alegis Downport for writing the Patron that attracts most SPAM comments ($ 5).
Flynn for including his own name ($ 5).
Ron Smith for an excellent campaign starting Patron ($ 5).
Aza, for almost cheating but still writing a cool adventure ($ 5).
Finally Jim Vassilakos for his very interesting Patron in the Foreven sector and for including the Zhodani in option 5 and 6 ($ 10).
All winners will be contacted. All prizes are Gift Certificates at DriveThruRPG.
I want to say a big Thank You to all contestants!
This was the last Zhodani Base 76 Patrons contest. Unfortunately we only have 73 Patrons now. I have to write 3 Patrons myself. I have some ideas… But if you have an idea and want to help, then please contact BeRKA.