He was Nothing. The Well is Everything!

Every Traveller group should encounter at least one frenemy with eagle eyes and amazing marksmanship.

Also, this clip gets the tribal instincts of the Empty Quarter spot-on.

When you get two tribes and their flocks, and a well that can care for only one tribe and its’ flocks, the resolution of one well becoming the sole property of one tribe is practically preordained.

How you get from here to there is where the PCs get involved. The precise route taken — bribes and gold, lies and deception, hard and pitiless law, or astonishing levels of violence — is the interesting part.

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Mongoose Traveller: Vehicle Handbook

The new Vehicle Handbook has as some serious advantages, which is important for Referees and gamers. But, it has one notable fault, a lack of imagination and innovation, that restricts it from the greatness that is the Central Supply Catalogue.

There is also the matter of price, but that’s for the end of the post.

From a dedicated Mongoose ref perspective, the Vehicle Handbook is very useful, with the construction of a vast range of craft — land, sea, air, underground, and undersea — in less than five minutes. This level of abstraction is a disappointment for those of us who cut their teeth with Fire, Fusion and Steel, or even GURPS Vehicles (for the GURPS Traveller guys), but for those who like to focus their game on group role-play rather than individual design — a matter of taste, true, but a common one — then this would be quite a boon.

Naturally, things are lost in the ether because of the abstraction: most notably weight, but also speed (besides categories like “Very Slow”, “Fast”, etc.), sensors, etc. That’s the price for fast design: and admittedly, today’s Travellers have little interest in the design/engineering side of things.

From my perspective, the great flaw is the lack of imagination in the various designs. Only a few things really light the fire, like so many items in the Central Supply Catalogue. Even six or so tables, giving out a wide range of possible modifications, the modifiers they provide, the cost, a bit of colour text, and good graphics, would have raised the value of this supplement.

And that leads to the problem of cost. For the goods provided, it simply costs too much at $29.99. I was expecting fewer typos and more cool ideas and graphics, but that just wasn’t there. Perhaps if this was sold at a lower price point, and another Vehicle product was provided with an impressive variety of possible cars, grav vehicles, beanstalk cars, etc, then it would have worked out nicely.

Traveller needs to be affordable to a larger market than just grumpy old grognards.

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Buzz Aldrin, Two-Fisted Traveller

From What is the most American thing ever?

Sadly, everyone else is incorrect, and I can only assume it’s because they haven’t been lucky enough to see the actual most American thing ever.

Without further ado, I present to you: a 72 year old Buzz Aldrin punching out a moon landing denier who, in the course of harassing the legendary astronaut, called him a liar and a coward:

Could anything be more American than a septuagenarian Apollo astronaut clocking a guy to defend his honor? The answer is no.

I rest my case.

But while you’re here, here’s a longer article which, in addition to touching on this incident (which should be a national holiday), the Apollo missions, and the moon hoax theory, will leave you feeling even more impressed with Buzz Aldrin than you are already: Well-Aimed and Powerful

First: Mucho respect for Buzz Aldrin!

Second: Yes, this is actually the most American thing ever.

And when I say American, I mean Classic American. as in, “The Real Deal”.

Third: As a bona fide space traveller and world explorer, he automatically makes the Scout of the Week requirements.

(I should really make that an ongoing feature: but I don’t know if I have the commitment to really make it work. But even if I can’t do it, someone should!)

Fourth: Keep an eye out for Old Man Strength.

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“Something Good is Going to Happen”

Not bad, for a steampunk sci-fi story.

No, it isn’t really the Classic Traveller flavour: but behind the great big stories are many little stories. It’s a big Imperium, with lots of room for odd-yet-heartwarming tales in the background.

You might show the PCs one or two, and see if they like it.

 

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“The top 7 ways a trip to Mars could kill you, illustrated”

From The top 7 ways a trip to Mars could kill you, illustrated

Elon Musk wants humans to travel to Mars. He just doesn’t want to be the first to go. Because, uh, there’s a very good chance of dying.

That’s what the PCs are for – any Patron could have told you that!

“The risk of fatality will be high,” Musk conceded in the course of describing SpaceX’s absurdly ambitious (and still preliminary) plan to establish a human colony on Mars. “There’s no way around it.”

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Survival Skills: A Timed Quiz

Just a quick refresher course: Survival Techniques.

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Nerve Toxins at Starports

From The worst-case scenario of the apparent nerve toxin murder of Kim Jong Nam

… consider all of the people outside of that circle, the people getting ready for some of those 199 flights. Each of them was possibly within 100 yards of a rare, deadly nerve agent that might have made its way through the airport until the moment that it was swiped on Kim’s face. Depending on how the VX got onto that cloth, and where, and how careful the assassins — two women, according to reports — were in applying and transporting it, that danger could remain.

[…]

Vestergaard pointed out the obvious risk posed by an assassin carrying a cloth with VX through an airport.

“We watched her walk across one of the terminals. She would have had to have carried this cloth with her. Even if she had gloves on, it would have dispersed somehow, somewhere,” she said. “Onto her, maybe onto someone else if she would have brushed against someone. If something would have dropped, onto a shoe, onto a suitcase.” Wherever she doused the cloth might be contaminated, Vestergaard added. “Even to open the vial and carry a vial” risks contaminating the environment.

[…]

It works quickly. “Its effect is mainly through direct contact with the skin,” the OPCW indicates. Poisoning using a gas leads to a more rapid effect than through contact with the skin, because in the latter case it can take 20 to 30 minutes for the agent to reach deeper blood vessels. When it does, however, the effect is to essentially paralyze respiratory functions — the victim suffocates. Because persistent agents don’t evaporate, it requires a smaller amount to kill. In the case of VX, the OPCW says, the amount of the agent required to have a fatal effect in 50 percent of victims is 10 milligrams.

An amount the size of three snowflakes. One-ninth of a grain of sand.

[…]

Asked whether she was surprised by the idea that Kim might have been killed with VX, Vestergaard said she was.

“Everything about this strikes me as incredulous and bizarre,” she said — but so did the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, a former spy who was killed after being slowly poisoned with the radioactive compound polonium, she said. That someone was murdered in a public place in broad daylight, though, isn’t a surprise. That’s often how assassinations are conducted — including with the use of chemical weapons.

I admit, I have a greater amount of respect for Mossad’s style of a gunman on a motorbike. The target walking to work, or driving to the mall… all can be handled with prompt dispatch, followed by a quick ride to the airport.

Fancy-dancy nerve agents, administered by ignorant hirelings, is not something that I would expect.

But that’s how it is. “Professionals are predictable: it’s the amateurs that are dangerous.”

“In some respects, it’s not surprising,” she added. “With North Korea, the other thing that doesn’t surprise me is that they want to be surprising.”

I’m old enough so this bizarre method of assassination still feels incredibly sci-fi. “Three snowflakes, and it’s all over.”

Fortunately, this was a nerve poison, and not some impossibly infectious biowar strain of killer measles, say.

A properly-positioned Imperial Starport Authority security officer must have some amazing set of stories to tell!

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The Space Between the Stars

If there is ever a real interstellar Imperium in this universe — that is, a universe without FTL travel — it’s going to look like the leadership peak of the interstellar highways discussed in this video.

And the Imperial Nobility would be transhuman cyborgs, by and large. But at least they wouldn’t be pure data streams, which would have no interest in pushing atoms across interstellar distances in the first place.

(Assuming that digital data can be self-aware, something that I don’t grant. I still love those big fat data pipes, though.)

The STL interstellar highway universe even allows for piracy, surprisingly enough.


From the comments:

Few years ago I was in a discussion at the Club of Amsterdam, about Mars One. It was a great presentation and there was a guy there called Gerard van t Hooft, nobel prize winner. He said

“humans won’t do interstellar travels for millions of years”

To which I said, it can be done with interstellar highways, precisely the above. I pick arguments with Nobel prize winners. Fortunately I had a politician witness.

I don’t have the guts to do this, but I respect those who do… especially when they win the arguments they start!

Now, if you can find a way to get a good NPC like this: or, better yet, make this kind of man your character…

(To be fair: in the original, the challenger is a woman. Which merely proves that the world needs more intellectually aggressive men: men who can launch a challenge, get slapped down (which is going to happen), learn, and come back stronger.

How else does a wide-eyed recruit become a hardened veteran?)

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My Favourite Scout (This Week)

There’s quite an august list of personalities in Quarta’s list: military men, scientists, and programmers.

My personal favourite is Norman Borlaug, “The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives”, thanks to his discovery of high-yielding strains of food crops. Odd, that young people prefer to wear T-shirts of that murderer Che instead of an actual benefactor of humanity…

But for Traveller purposes – ‘daring adventures into the unknown!’ – I would recommend Witold Pilecki (Inmate #4859):

The man who volunteered to go into Auschwitz as a prisoner, in order to pass information to the allies. Until his report, the allies thought that the Nazis were running internment or prison camps, not, as he found out, death camps. While he was there, he joined an underground movement and using a radio transmitter cobbled together from smuggled parts, reported to the Polish resistance (who forwarded the information to the Allies) what the camp was, number of prisoners, conditions, and more. He then managed to break out of Auschwitz, with documents stolen from the Nazis in his possession.

Let me repeat: This man volunteered to be put in Auschwitz, to pass information to the Allied forces.

He was later executed in communist Poland, accused of espionage. His body, to this date, has yet to be found. He was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Order of the White Eagle, posthumously.

Now, that’s what I call a Scout!

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We Were Soldiers Once

From Remembering “We Were Soldiers” Hero, Hal Moore

Harold “Hal” Moore was a retired three-star Army general, but he will forever be remembered for his courageous actions as the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in November 1965.

Memorialized in the book and subsequent movie “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young,” Moore and his battalion conducted an audacious helicopter assault right into the midst of three North Vietnamese regiments in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam and were immediately faced with an enemy onslaught.

Undeniable Heroism

Surrounded, outnumbered, and faced with mounting casualties, Moore, then-lieutenant colonel, skillfully orchestrated his unit’s harrowing defense, moving units around to fill gaps, calling in artillery and air support, and most importantly leading by example, exposing himself to all the dangers faced by his men.

The battalion sustained casualties that were unheard of at that early stage of the war, with 71 soldiers being killed during the engagement.

There were multiple moments during the terrible three days and two nights where the unit was in danger of being overrun, but in each instance the troopers of the 1/7 under Moore’s leadership rallied and threw the enemy back.

The North Vietnamese lost over 1,000 soldiers in this pitched battle.

Moore embodied the virtues Americans look for in their heroes.

“We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” wasn’t published until 1992, but it quickly became a mandatory read for Army officers in the 1990s and remains a key volume on most recommended military reading lists.

Of course, it should be on the reading list of Traveller Referees running mercenary/military campaigns, as well.

 

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