Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Monster - Resurrected Dinosaurs

Hereby I present you with... Dinosaurs for Stars Without Number!

A common dream of scientists and laymen alike, ever since the development of modern genetics in the second half of the 20th century, was bringing the beasts of the past to life, chiefly dinosaurs, massive reptiles who captured human imagination for many generations. Actual remnant DNA from Jurassic and Cretaceous fossil records, however, was greatly fragmentary in nature, preventing direct cloning of dinosaurs, as was initially proposed. So, until the last First Wave and the early-mid Second Wave of human expansion into space, resurrecting dinosaurs remained a distant dream for many. But the development of advanced pretech genetic engineering techniques allowed for the creation of hybrid genomes, complementing the fragmentary fossil record with genetic material taken from the dinosaurs' living relatives, modern avians. This allowed for the creation of living, breathing dinosaurs, who might show various differences from their actual progenitor templates, but who were close enough to have a huge market among enthusiasts, terraformers, and colonists in search of interesting imported or cloned fauna. Many worlds thus had a certain population of these reptiles, and many still survive to this post-Scream day.

So here I will provide the stats for several of the more common resurrected species.

Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 12
Attack Bonus: +8
Damage: 4d8 (trample)
No. Appearing: solitary or herd (3d6)
Saving Throw: 9+
Movement: 10m
Morale: 6

The Alamosaurus is an enormous sauropod herbivore, ranging up to 25m in length, with a shoulder height of 7m and a weight of approximately 30 tons. At this size, even Tyrannosauruses will hesitate to attack, unless the Alamosaurus is weak, or a youngster separated from its herd; when in a herd, virtually no predator will dare hunt this giant creature. An Alamosaurus, therefore, has little to fear from predators, and is rarely aggressive unless cornered, or unless defending its young. When it does attack, however, it uses its sheer weight to trample any smaller aggressor; their sheer weight allows them to damage targets otherwise only damaged by Gunnery attacks. While some lostworld tribes  tame Alamosauruses to serve as giant beasts of burden, their slow pace and non-aggressive nature make them ill-suited to use as war-beasts.

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 8
Attack Bonus: +9/+9
Damage: 4d4 (tail)/2d6 (trample)
No. Appearing: 1d20
Saving Throw: 11+
Movement: 20m
Morale: 9

Armoured to the hilt with bony plates and armed with a massive club of a tail capable of crushing most predators, the Ankylosaurus has the abilities, as well as the necessary temper, to defend itself from any perceived threat. At the length of 10m and with a weight of 6 metric tons, this is a difficult, but rewarding, challenge for hunters, and its meat may feed an entire tribe of lost-worlers for a few days.This herbivorous dinosaur is quick to anger, and views most other creatures of human-size or larger as potential predators, hence to be minced with its crushing tail. A hit by the heavy, flail-like tail has a 3-in-6 chance of knocking a human-sized target prone on a successful hit, unless the target wears powered armor, in which case the chance is reduced to 2-in-6.

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 7+1
Attack Bonus: +9/+9
Damage: 1d10 (bite)/1d4 (tail slap)
No. Appearing: 1
Saving Throw: 12+
Movement: 25m
Morale: 9

The Carnotaurus is a large, though lightly built, predatory theropod, specializing in ambushing its prey. With teeth like swords and a bite force eclipsing that of a large crocodile, a Carnotaurus hunts dinosaurs larger than itself, tearing their flesh with bestial ferocity. While lacking the bulk of larger predatory theropods, the Carnotaurus is capable of attaining impressive speed, attacking the prey from surprise. As an ambush predator, it surprises its prey unless the victim succeeds in a Perception skill roll at difficulty 8. This dinosaur was actually much more common as an "exotic pet" of wealthy owners than the much more imposing Tyrannosaurus, owing to its lower meat intake and thus cheaper upkeep cost.

Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2
Attack Bonus: +3/+3/+3
Damage: 1d6 (bite)/1d4 (claw)/1d4 (claw)
No. Appearing: 3-9
Saving Throw: 14+
Movement: 30m
Morale: 8

Occasionally mistaken with the much smaller Velociraptor, the Deinonychus is a man-sized theropod, standing less than a meter tall and stretching up to three meters including its long, feathered tail. Like many of the smaller theropods, the Deinonycus has a coat of feathers, but unlike its modern avian relatives, it possesses claws on its fore-limbs and a toothy maw. This reptile is a pack-hunter, intelligent enough to coordinate attacks on prey much larger than a single Deinonychus, bringing much food to the pack. Since this is a social animal, it is possible to tame it, and several worlds sport Deinonychus pets, though the smaller Velociraptor is much more popular in that role due to its more manageable size.

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4
Attack Bonus: +4
Damage: 1d6 (trample)
No. Appearing: 3-9
Saving Throw: 13+
Movement: 40m
Morale: 7

A common riding animal on worlds where resurrected dinosaurs are common, the Edmontosaurus is a medium-sized herbivore weighting about 4 metric tons. It is relatively easily to tame, and is often raised as a beast of burden. Being able to run twice as fast as a human being is an added bonus.

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 10
Attack Bonus: +12/+12/+12
Damage: 3d8 (bite)/2d8 (trample)/1d8 (tail slap)
No. Appearing: 1
Saving Throw: 10+
Movement: 20m
Morale: 12

King of the dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus is a true monster, apex predator of its time, and now apex predator of the genetically-enhanced future. Massing up to seven tons, it outweighs many vehicles, and can exert massive force with its enormous jaws. Originally bred for the preserves of ultra-rich big-game hunters, it now stalks many worlds where the perimeter defending these preserves fell apart during and shortly after the Scream. On many lost worlds, this reptile is worshiped as a god. In battle, in addition to its toothy may, it may also attempt to trample its foes with its great weight, or slap them with its tail; due to the mass and muscle power involved, all of these attacks may harm targets usually only damaged by Gunnery attacks.

Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1/2
Attack Bonus: +1/+1/+1
Damage: 1d4 (bite)/1d2 (claw)/1d2 (claw)
No. Appearing: 2-12
Saving Throw: 15+
Movement: 40m
Morale: 8

While its name is occasionally appropriated to describe the much larger Deinonychus, the Velociraptor is a small predatory theropod, rarely weighting over 15 kilograms. It enjoys a feathery tail (constituting most of its 2m length) and a full coat of feathers, and runs twice as fast as a typical human. Like its larger relative, the Velociraptor is a pack hunter, and a social animal, and is readily tamed - a common pet held on many worlds in lieu of dogs. A single Velociraptor is a nuisance; a hungry pack, on the other hand, could be very dangerous, particularly to a single victim.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monster Monday - Laanese Tentacled Worm

Laanese Tentacled Worm
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 3+1
Attack Bonus: +3 (also Special)
Damage: 1d6 (also Special)
No. Appearing: 1-3
Saving Throw: 14+
Movement: 20m
Morale: 7

Like many life-forms native to the arid, cold, dusty world of Laana, the Tentacled Worm is exceedingly hardy and exhibits both insectoid and mollusk characteristics. This xenomorph is the apex scavenger of Laana, eating anything and everything, but rarely actively hunting. It prefers its meals dead, though it might act as an opportunistic predator if it detects easy prey. Since it can feed on virtually anything organic and biologically capable with humans, the Tentacled Worm quickly found its way to the trash-dumps and sewers of many worlds, its eggs inadvertently carried by many a merchant ship to different worlds. This creature looks like a combination between a grub and a cephalopod, 3 meters long and standing a meter high, with multiple legs carrying its weight and many tentacles surrounding its mouth.

The Tentacled Worm has two attacks which it may use in the same round: slapping its prey with its poisoned tentacles, or biting with its many sharp mouth-parts. The tentacles cause no damage, but on a successful hit, the target must make a Physical Effect save or be paralyzed by the venom for 2d4 rounds. The bite itself is handled as a normal attack and does 1d6 damage. It also enjoys a keen sense of smell used to located food, and it may attempt to detect sneaking foes by smell as if it has Perception-4. Note that this sense of smell does not usually allow it to detect non-organic targets.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Very rough known space outline for Visions of Empire

I've cobbled together a VERY rough outline of my Visions of Empire setting. I am leaning towards having the whole thing be a Traveller sector. Black are (sub?)sector names; red are the alien species present in a (sub?)sector I have not yet named.

I'm trying to decide between my empires being 3x3 Sectors in size to my empires being 3x3 Subsectors in size (known space is 4x4 sectors/subsectors in size). On one hand, having multiple sectors per empire is more epic and allows for a much bigger frontier and post-frontier, especially given centuries of Imperial rule (though both empires weren't very expansionist and expanded slowly). On the other, with 3x3 Subsectors, I can fit almost all known/relevant space in a single Sector and make everything manageable; even roll UWPs for all worlds in the "universe", which is tempting, and really, do you really need all these random/dot-mapped worlds for a campaign?

(Note that this setting uses mostly CT Books 2 designs and Book 3 drive TLs, so you can get Jump-4 as early as TL10).

The options I'm toying with are:

1) The entire known space is ONE sector, plus a beyond-frontier area, one subsector thick, all around it (so, 6x6 subsectors total). Manageable, but less epic.

2) Map ONE sector for the game, but have 15 other sectors as background (unmapped or dot-mapped).

Currently leaning towards option #1.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wanderers - an excellent sci-fi short film by Erik Wernquist

This short sci-fi film by Erik Wernquist reminds me of the Kim Stanley Robinson's hard-scifi books. It has also brought tears to my eyes as for the short-sighted politicians who invest little in space exploration and much in the endless terrestrial wars (which cost even more  than manned space exploration). Untold riches lie in the heavens; yet we scrabble over the scraps of our own cradle.

Enjoy this film! And support a spacefaring future of science, exploration and interstellar colonization. Bring back our sense of wonder and the Final Frontier!

[Traveller] The Unified History of "Visions of Empire"

Long Live the United Terran Republic!
Long Live the New Terran Republic!
(UTR Flag by Oculus Orbus)
I have decided to unite both "visions" of my Visions of Empire setting idea into a single setting: both These Stars are Ours! (relatively near-future Terra vs. the Reticulans in galactic politics) and Ashes of Empire (far future post-collapse of the Terran Empire). The thing is that: These Stars are Ours, AKA Vision #1, will be an earlier milieu, while Ashes of Empire, AKA Vision #2, will be a later milieu, both of the same setting. So, without further ado, I present the unified history of my Visions of Empire setting!

2082-2232 Reticulan Conquest and the EFA
Humanity has missed its chance to start its own interstellar state. In the hyper-consumerist 21st century, apart from a few privately-owned space tourist outfits and several abortive attempts at belt mining, we Humans did not pay much attention to space, preferring instead to focus on our day-to-day lives here on Earth. Space programs were cut back, and the single manned Mars landing in 2043 was never followed by any further exploration. But then the Reticulans came.

In 2082, several Reticulan (more particularly, House Thiragin) capital ships appeared in Earth orbit, sending a wave of smaller saucers to hover above Earth's major cities. Soon enough, through promises of advanced technology and access to vast wealth through interstellar trade, most Earth governments signed pacts with the alien visitors. In a matter of months, Earth was transformed from a chaotic collection of independent states into one big client-state of the Reticulan House Thiragin, ruled by the Earth Federal Administration (EFA). A few Earthlings did resist this economic and political takeover, however, under the umbrella of the hastily-formed Terran Defense Committee (TDC), which, for several years, launched covert operations against the aliens and their collaborators, until hunted down and defeated by the EFA's bio-augmented Federal Security Apparatus (FSA), better known as the Men in Black.

While self-administered and allowed to build its own armed forces - mostly to serve as auxiliary troops for House Thiragin - Terra was under the alien thumb, its economy and resources exploited by the alien Thiragin, some of its people used by Thiragin scientists as lab-rats for various bio-tech experiments, and its soldiers send off to fight distant wars on the behalf of its alien masters. the EFA allowed relatively little freedom to its citizens, but, on the other hand, developed its own sphere of space around Earth with nine major colonies settled by Mankind, exporting goods to the Thiragin monopoly and the larger Reticulan Empire.

2232-2258 Terran Liberation War (the First Reticulan War)
But then, in 2232, Humanity had enough. After a century and a half of subjugation, massive protests against the EFA's unfair tax burden and tyrannical practices turned into open rebellion on Terra and the nine major colonies. Out of the chaos, rose the United Terran Republic (UTR), which declared itself an independent state, and, soon after, called for the Reticulans' other thralls and client states to rise up in rebellion as well, towards a free Interstellar Republic.

The Reticulans responded by trying to crush this impudent uprising, sending their own Thiragin Huscarls as well as Cicek mercenaries and many other alien auxiliaries. Thus began the Terran Liberation War. Stubborn Terran military resistance, as well as diplomatic efforts, found, however, their success, as parts of the Cicek hordes broke off from their own, Reticulan-dominated client-state, forming what was first known as the Cicek Democracy and later as the Cicke Confederacy. The combined might of Terran troops and allied Cicek dissidents crushed, in 2239, House Thiragin's might, breaking through the defensive lines and approaching Zeta 2 Reticuli, House Thiragin's Sector Capital. Until then, however, the other Reticulan houses, content to see their Thiragin competitors embroiled in what was seen as a minor rebellion of barbarians and thus weakened, have not intervened. Only when UTR and Cicek Confederation troops were two jumps away from Zeta 2 Reticuli, the Empress herself sent her Legions, supported by numerous to crush the rebellion.

Ultimately, they failed. Fighting raged for two more decades, with the lines moving back and forth between the Terran-Cicek alliance and the Reticulan Empire, but, in January 2258, the fabled Terran Guard, supported by Colonial Troops and a heavy Cicek fleet, crushed through the Reticulan lines, captured Zeta 2 Reticuli and thus declared the entire Reticuli Sector (now Terra Sector) their own.

The Reticulan Empire had to capitulate. In June 2258, they signed a treaty with the UTR, recognizing its sovereignty, as well as its conquest of the Reticuli Sector, Furthermore, Terra forced the Reticulans' hand into allowing the various minor races close to Terran space to secede, if desired, from the Reticulan Empire.

2258-2296 Ascendancy of the United Terran Republic
Out of the Terran Liberation War - later called the First Reticulan War - the UTR came with its upper hand, a strong polity with massive military might and an enormous popularity among its citizens. While the centralized state-run economic machine of the war was mostly privatized, the state still held a massive military machine, maintaining a universal draft and a strong offensive military arm. The initial post-war period saw much liberalization and demilitarization of the United Terran Republic, owing to the Dovish-Nationalist line held at the time by the ruling Terran Coalition party and most of the public. This, however, slowly changed as more Hawkish politics gained ground, especially as the massive military achievements of the First Reticulan War gave many Terrans a taste for conquest, which grew stronger as time progressed and the horrors of war were less remembered than its glories.

So in the late 2270's, the UTR became more and more active in interstellar politics, challenging the Reticulan Empire on many fronts, and, initially, gaining ground using aggressive diplomacy rather than the open force of arms. A major step in this direction was the establishment of the Reticulan Technate - then a pro-Terran state - in regions of the Reticulan Empire conquered by the UTR in the past war. The Terrans backed the Technate by force of arms and build and trained its military forces, openly supporting the Empire-wide Technocracy Movement, which, in the Reticulan Empire proper, was an illegal underground movement aimed at overthrowing the Great Houses and replacing them with a Technocracy - the meritocratic rule by scientists and engineers.

From lucky barbarians (in Reticulan eyes, that is) in 2258, the UTR became a force to be reckoned with, aggressively pursuing its interests along the Imperial border and arming the rebel Technate. Client species of the Reticulan Empire were encouraged to rebel against their masters, and these rebels were armed and trained by UTR "military advisers". By the 2290's, this led to mounting pressure, especially by House Thiragin on the otherwise prudent Reticulan Empress to counter these Terran moves. And, in 2296, this gave rise to a Second Reticulan War.

2296-2312 Second Reticulan War
In 2296, the Reticulan Empress, pressured by the Great Houses to counter the Terran aggression, finally declared war on the Reticulan Technate, and heavily suppressed the Technocratic movement within the Empire's borders. The UTR responded by declaring war on the Empire and sent its fleets and Terran Guard units for a massive counter-offensive. Several of the Cicek tribes also joined this war on the Terran side, typically in hope for plunder and planetary land-grants. The initial fighting was near Zeta 2 Reticuli, then the Technate's capital, but by the turn of the century, the Reticulan forces were pushed by by multiple parsecs, as Terran fleets gained the upper hand. Fires burned on a hundred worlds as the two superpowers fought for dominance.

The first decade of the 24th century was thus marked by war and slaughter on an interstellar scale. But the Reticulan Empire, ossified and wracked by internal strife between the Great Houses, proved weaker than the determined an aggressive Terrans. Despite a massive price in lives and lost materiel, the UTR gained the upper hand, and, in 2312, helped the Reticulan Technate to plant the Technocratic flag on the Reticulan homeworld moments after the last Empress committed suicide by jumping out of the Imperial Spire. The empire thus was no more; the Technate controlled Reticulan space, after massive concessions, of course, to its Terran allies. The species long held in thrall by the Reticulans were now free of Imperial control, though Terra moved to try and bring them under her leadership.

2312-2345 Terran Dominance and Rise of the Megacorporations
The first half of the 24th century saw the UTR as the dominant interstellar power. But soon after the great victory, once the major enemy of Terra, the Reticulan Empire, was gone, the massive Terran military, as well as the highly centralized nature of the Republic, came into question. At first, the vast post-war prosperity quieted this dissent. But, as the decades went by, the victorious UTR looked, to its citizens, more and more anachronistic, a military beast with no real enemies but with an insatiable thirst for budgets and manpower. Most Terrans became more interested in commerce and industry than in the old Terran Cause, not to mention the Galactic Liberation cause, and society slowly transformed itself into a more civilian-oriented one, chafing against the old military establishment. Having lost millions of lives to war, many Terrans became war-weary, and Dovish-Nationalist views rose to prominence once again.

By the early 24th century, immediately following the Terran victory over the Empire, ten stable megacorporations, each owned by a single family, arose from the continued growth, and privatization, of the United Terran Republic, the so-called Zaibatsus. Each laid claim to a major slice of explored and unexplored space, or, in some cases, occupied Reticulan space. Each developed a vertical, as well as horizontal, monopoly over the majority of goods produced and consumed in that slice inter-corporation trade was mostly in rare earth elements, radioactives and specialized technologies. Concurrent with this monopolization of the economy, the UTR itself became more and more bureaucratic, ossified and authoritarian, bordering on an outright military regime.

2345-2626 The Terran Empire
Contrary to many predictions, the United Terran Republic did not fall in a violent coup or an alien invasion. Rather, it was (mostly) peacefully dissolved into the Terran Empire. Why so? The main reason was that the old UTR was a very militarized state, born as it was out of the struggle for Terran independence from the Reticulan Empire. In its early years, the citizens of the UTR were very happy with that - they were proud of how their small, backwater state kicked out a much more powerful and much older polity and brought freedom to the Terrans. But as time progressed, and, especially, after the Second Reticulan War, these military-centered policies and attitudes became less and less popular, with their greatly inflated military budget (requiring high taxes), universal draft and strong political power held by the military.

Meanwhile, the corporations, growing rich and powerful in the wake of the Second Reticulan War and the conquest of massive swathes of Reticulan space, found this militarized setup to be a burden on their profits. So, eventually, Karl Durnhal, heir and owner to the massive Durnhal Enterprises and richer than any man in recorded history, proposed in the 2340's the Imperial system, ironically enough inspired by the conquered Reticulan Empire; it would be a mercantile society, a polity run by businessmen, by people who produce, who sell, who provide services, and not by militaries and their insatiable thirst for war. This charismatic vision of peace and prosperity was too much for the majority of the war-weary Terran public to resist. So, in 2345, the Act of Dissolution was passed in Parliament, dissolving the republic and installing an Empire in its place, with the ten greatest and richest megacorporation-owning families becoming Great Houses and governing space, Durnhal on top, of course. Only a relative minority bemoaned what they saw as a gross betrayal of what their forefathers fought for a century before. But the majority of Terrans rejoiced as the universal draft was abolished, the military cut back and the taxes greatly reduced. And so the Republic became an Empire. At its very heart, the Terran Empire was a glorified price-fixing scheme, a deal amongst monopolies to divide known space between their interests.

Some resisted, and, for several decades, a low-intensity insurgency was carried out by those loyal to the old Republican ideals against the Empire, but the vast wealth of the megacorporations, and the brilliant future of plenty and prosperity they promised, prevented the opposition from gaining much ground. For 43 years, the republican holdout, officially called the United Terran Republic - Emergency Administration but unofficially called the Terran Freehold, lingered on, becoming more and more authoritarian and eventually totalitarian, only to collapse under its own weight in 2388 and be absorbed by the Empire.

For three centuries things went well, with the empire growing and expanding, becoming the largest, richest state in the entire history of the Human species. The era between the Empire's stabilization in the mid-24th century and the Great Stagnation beginning in 2626 was called the Terran Golden Age. While Great House nepotism and bureaucracy made scientific discoveries slow, trade with the alien neighbors brought new ideas to Terra, and technology progressed (up to Traveller TL15), albeit in a conservative fashion. Apart from the occasional border skirmish with alien polities, such as the weakened Reticulan Technate and the various Cicek Tribes, as well as the growing threat of piracy, the single greatest military threat to the Terran Empire was the Matriarchate, a posthuman polity formed by dissident belters in the far reaches of space, and embraced cybertechnology to the hilt (unlike the conservative Empire), up to an including creating a synthetic shared consciousness of their group. And, indeed, the threat of the utterly alien (though of Human origin) Matriarchate served as a whip to keep Imperial citizens in line for several generations.

2626-2651 The Great Stagnation and Civil War
The Great Stagnation was cooking, in fact, since the mid 26th century. Ossified, decadent and introverted, the Imperial Core saw innovation as an inconvenience and progress as a threat. An economy and a society which is not moving forward, however, is bound to start sliding back. In 2626, the first Great House was forced to declare bankruptcy, an unprecedented event in Imperial history. Recession set in, and the power struggles between the Great Houses grew bitter. When Empress Elena II died an early death in 2639, despite TL15 medical technology, and left the line with no clear heir, the Empire fell into disarray, with the Great Houses scrambling to place themselves on the Terran Throne instead of the dying House Durnhal.

The actual Civil War, and the Terran Revolution which followed, were actually relatively short. For eight long years, between 2539 and 2547, brief fire was exchanged between the major houses, and a major uprising had occurred in several parts of the Empire, including on Terra itself. But lacking economic strength to back up their war machines, the remaining Great Houses, as well as the New Republican rebels, were unable to claim a victory. When the dust settled in 2547, the New Terran Republic was unseated from Terra, and a weak Emperor, a puppet of the resurgent Reticulan Technate, found his way to the Terran Throne (ruling Terra itself and a handful of nearby worlds, which were in bad economic shape); only three of the Great Houses remained in any measurable strength.

Into this vacuum came new forces seeking to gain ascendancy from the chaos. First and foremost, Terran space was invaded by aliens, chief among them the Cicek, the Sselassians, the Zhuzzh and the Reticulans, seeking to expand their territories and grow rich from Imperial plunder; little or no Human forces were able to repel these invasions. Secondly, local warlords, as well as opportunistic Oligarchs - interstellar robber-barons feeding on the rotting carrion of the fallen Great Houses - rose and consolidated their local forces. The New Republican armada and its rag-tag civilian followers, fleeing prosecution and near-defeat in the Core and the Coreward-Spinward by the remaining Great Houses, crossed known space into the utter Rimward, where they found sympathetic locals and re-established the New Terran Republic- far from Terra itself.

2651 and on - Ashes of Empire
The year is 2651 and the former Terran Empire lies in ruins. But out of the chaos, new opportunities arise for the brave, the enterprising and the opportunistic. Whether they serve one of the old Great Houses, align themselves with a warlord or Oligarch, join the New Republican cause or strike out in their own, player characters have a chance for fame, glory and empire-building.

Monday Monster - Laanese Cave Squid

I hereby present a new feature of this blog - Monday Monster. Here I will provide xenomorphs for Stars Without Number, sometimes converted d20 SRD monsters, in other cases monsters out of my own imagination. Eventually I might even convert them over to Classic Traveller.

Laanese Cave Squid
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 8+1
Attack Bonus: +3
Damage: 1d8
No. Appearing: solitary or a clutch of 3-9
Saving Throw: 14+
Movement: 15m (crawling), 20m (flight - when gliding from a ceiling)
Morale: 7

The Cave Squid is one of the larger predators on the dry, cold, dusty world of Laana. Exceedingly hardy like all native Laanese life-forms, the squid can weather the biting dry, cold air and filter out even the worst dust-storm, requires little water and may lie half-dormant for a long period in wait for prey. Its natural habitat are caves and rocky outcrops, from which it hangs in wait for prey; in modern times, it also has an annoying habit of infiltrating abandoned or seldom-used buildings, then attempting to eat anyone who tries to reclaim them. A hardy animal, the Cave Squid hitched a ride on many an unknowing freighter outbound from Laana, and by now they have adapted well to most "short-sleeve" and marginal environments in the sector as an invasive species.

The cave squid hangs from a ceiling - cave or building - by its muscular "foot" placed at the top of its body. When motionless, it can look like a stalactite, by holding its tentacles stiffly under itself, or like a lump of rock, spreading its tentacles so the membrane between them covers its body. Its shell and skin usually resemble limestone, though a cave squid can change its color to match almost any type of stony background. This how it ambushes prey - when a creature enters its cave (or abandoned building), A Cave Squid is about 120cm long from the tips of its tentacles to the top of its head and weights approximately 20kg. One the tough outer hide is peeled, the innards of this creature are much softer, and are considered a delicacy on Laana; in fact, in the more habitable parts of that world, Cave Squids have become quite rare, as during the hard years following Liberation, their flesh was a welcome change from the ubiquitous broad-beans and metawheat ration provided to all citizens.

The Cave Squid uses echolocation to detect its prey, and can thus "see" perfectly even in total darkness. When in hiding, noticing it requires a Perception check at difficulty 10 when not deliberately searching the area, and at difficulty 8 when deliberately searching; if the Cave Squid attacks an unsuspecting victim, it enjoys a free round of action when it can attack before initiative is rolled and the victims may act themselves. On a successful attack, roll an opposed Athletics check (modified by the character;s Strength modifier) between the victim and the Cave Squid (the Cave Squid has a total modifier of +4); if it wins the contest, it grapples its victim, immobilizing it. On each subsequent round, the victim is allowed another opposed Athletics check; if he fails, the Cave Squid may constrict him, doing an automatic 1d8 damage (the Cave Squid may roll to attack him as well as its standard action).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Politics of the United Terran Republic in 2259

UTR flag by Oculus Orbus
This is how politics work in the United Terran Republic milieu of my Traveller setting, Visions of Empire, in 2259, right after the victory over the Reticulans. In this period, there are four factions on two axis.

Axis I - Hawks vs. Doves. Hawks favor military solutions, Doves favor diplomatic solutions.

Axis II - Universalists vs. Nationalists. Universalists focus on the rights and future of all sentient species, Nationalists seek to focus on Terran matters.

So you have:

Dovish Universalists - desiring gradual change and transformation of the Reticulan Empire into a more democratic state through peaceful and diplomatic channels, towards a galactic commonwealth; supporting sophont rights, cultural exchange, and the rights of sentient species for self-determination. Opposed to re-militarization and strongly supporting the de-mobilization of Terran military. Highly popular among intellectuals, professional diplomats and certain parts of the 'new' middle class.

Dovish Nationalists - focused on Terran interests in the current Terran space. Uninterested in expansion; willing to abandon the cause of galactic revolution for a Terran sphere as an independent state focused on local economic matters. Typically also support economic liberalization and the privatization of the UTRs many state-owned industries. Strongly opposed to military spending. Rapidly growing in popularity due to the promise of much lowered taxation and focus on local economy and quality of life. Considered almost treasonous by almost any Hawk, as this means essentially abandoning the Grand cause people fought and died for during the Terran Liberation war for shorter-term economic benefit. Popular among the 'new' middle class. Official ideology tends to this direction right now. This short of views eventually were used to justify the foundation of the Terran Empire in the 2340's.

Hawkish Universalists - supporting a Universal Republic, and the dismantlement of the Reticulan Empire in the favor of such a Republic. Willing to use military force to carry forth the Revolution. During the early-mid Terran Liberation War, the UTR government, and the majority of population, supported this position. Now it is more and more becoming the province of the Old Guard, as Dovish politics, especially Nationalist ones, are gaining ground. This view is typically viewed with nostalgia, but is less popular today. AS common view among veteran soldiers, older politicians and the industrial working class.

Hawkish Nationalists - desiring a Terran dominion over all of known space, with Terra and the Terrans on top rather than the more egalitarian commonwealth or republic proposed by the Universalists. Popular among younger military officers, especially those who enlisted well into the war (rather than at its start), who see Terra's strength much more than her weakness. Considered highly cynical by Universalists.