Taking the Pepsi Challenge

As many of you will know, we are making a change to the range of Star Fleet models by casting many in metal (the larger models, such as the C8 and Condor Dreadnoughts, and the various bases – the first of which will be previewed very soon). Of course, many wanted to know whether the models would retain their crisp level of detail by changing medium.  We can assure you they will, as the same masters have been used for both metal and resin – however, we had a Federation Battlecruiser quickly painted up to match the existing ships in our studio fleet, so you can play spot the difference!

Can you tell the metal one out of these three (yes, there is one cheating way to do this that will no doubt be revealed on our forums, but try to do it without peeking!)?

Idle Friday

Just playing around with her 3D software, Sandrine came up with this. Some of you might recognise it…

Gionetti-class Light Cruiser

This light cruiser is named exclusively for posthumous recipients of the Imperial Starburst for Extreme Heroism.

Originally intended as a fast-reacting fighting ship, its actual use has evolved with experience. The ship is currently in favour as a flagship for many minor operations. Its high jump capability makes it extremely responsive to most situations, and it is possible to displace troops or service crew (or both) to provide quarters for command and staff personnel.

 

Models That Never Were

We are busy here at Mongoose. Very busy, designing and producing the next lot of exciting games that will (hopefully!) grace your tabletop. This means we don’t often get a chance to completely clear up after ourselves. This, in turn, means that projects can sometimes get bundled into a box, stashed somewhere, and forgotten about. Occasionally, we find some real goodies tucked away, having been hidden for years.

Recently, we uncovered our ‘Wave 4′ Battlefield Evolution prototypes, our game of near-future modern warfare with pre-painted miniatures. Some of these have been seen before, some have never seen the light of day aside from one Gen Con showing, a few years ago. We thought some of you might be interested in seeing a few models that never were…

Future Lynx

First up is the British Army’s Future Lynx, designed to bring the first round of airpower into the game.  This model had a clip-on missile rack with TOW Missiles that could be purchased by an upgrade. Or, you could leave it off, have a GPMG at each door and carry troops, zipping across the battlefield to drop out onto the roof of an important objective.

Zulfiqar MBT

This model was going to bring a change to one force – a Main Battle Tank for the MEA (Middle Eastern Alliance).  While not having the ‘legs’ of the heavyweights such as the Challenger II and Abrams, it gave a powerful punch to MEA forces, and that low, low profile made it easy to hide behind terrain!

Super Cobra

We couldn’t let the USMC go into battle without air support for long, and this Super Cobra was just the ticket.  Hellfire II missiles gave it a heavy punch and if there were other aircraft in the area, Sidewinders would soon bring them down. Anything left could be mopped up with the under-chin M197 cannon.

EQ2050

Not that the air units would have things all their own way. The EQ2050 Air Defence System was the Chinese PLA’s answer to airpower. Cheap in points, just a couple of these could deny an entire battlefield to the choppers. A fun little mdoel, the missiles rotated and pivoted up and down on their stand.

USMC Stinger Team

Ready to knock down a marauding Super Lynx, as well as suppress any other nations that got the idea of bringing massed airpower to a fight, the two man USMC Stinger Team provided a remarkably effective air defence. Scatter a few of these throughout your squads and enemy choppers had to proceed with utmost caution.

Leopard II 140mm

Here’s a favourite – the first non-British unit to join the European Task Force; the German Leopard II, with the revised 140mm gun, a tank that was extremely well-armoured and laughed at the puny weapons carried by the Abrams and Challenger II.

USMC in Woodland Camo

Finally, another couple of models we uncovered – these were never intended to go into production (at least, nto in the time scales we were looking at) but we thought it would be fun to experiment with a USMC force in more ‘traditional’ woodland-style camo. So, we knocked up this Abrams and a Shadow transport.

The Takel

A New Race for Traveller, by Jacob D C Ross.

The Takel are an aquatic native to the planet Umina. A minor race hindered by the unique nature of their planet and physiology, the Takel are not widely-dispersed among the stars.

Physiology
Takel are a genetically diverse aquatic species. They grow to a height of between 1.75 and 2 metres. There are no immediate differences in the appearances of male and female Takel beyond the great variation in appearance from one Takel to another. Takel are omnivorous, generally requiring a diet of 3,500 calories per day, with similar nutritional needs to humans.

The Takel

Takel bodies are incredibly flexible and dextrous. Takel colouring is variable, and any hue found in the visible spectrum (and beyond) may be present. Their skin can be uniform in colour, spotted, streaked or even covered in fractal patterns. Takel skin varies from smooth to bumpy to scaly. Due to their wild genetics, Takel offspring seldom bear any resemblance to their parents.

Takel each have eight arms (not tentacles), with each arm containing a great number of neurons connected to the brain. Each arm houses 3.5 percent of the total brain mass of the Takel, giving the arms amazing co-ordination. Seeing the impossible-seeming contortions, quick-as-a-flash movements and exotic colouring of the Takel, alien visitors to Umina have reportedly been moved to tears at Takel displays of dexterity, such as dance or athletics.

Takel have four eyes and two beaks, and effectively two faces. The first is found at the front of the head, while the second face is at the top of the head, allowing the Takel to see and eat prey while swimming at top speed.

Takel reproduce sexually and are egg layers, with the eggs kept within the mother. A typical Takel pregnancy has approximately twenty fertilised eggs but perhaps only two are likely to survive to term. Takel mature at approximately sixteen Earth years (seven Umina years) and live to about the age of 68 (29.75 Umina years).

Takel do not have vocal cords and so must use a vocoder in order to converse in other languages, in a similar manner to the Hivers. Takel language consists of a series of clicks made with their beaks, requiring non-Takel to use a specialised vocoder to speak in the Takel language.

The Takel manifest psionic ability in roughly the same percentage of the population as humans. Psionically-endowed Takel tend to have the same psionic strength as their counterparts in other species, but when in the water their abilities are enhanced.

The presence of unique mutagens on Umina severely affect Takel genetics. As a result, Takel have a wide variety of traits that manifest differently from individual to individual. When creating a character, roll once on the table below for any mutations present.

2D6     Result
2            Chamelon Skin
3-4        Poison
5-6       Two Tentacles
7           No Mutation
8-9       Thick Skin
10-11   Enhanced Jet Propulsion
12          Amphibian

Chameleon Skin: The Takel can change the color of its skin. This grants it a +2 DM on all Stealth checks, provided that they are wearing transparent clothing or are nude.
Poison: The Takel can deliver neurotoxin (see page 74 of the Traveller Main Rulebook) via a bite.
Two Tentacles: Two of the Takel’s arms are actually tentacles, terminating in hard claws. When used as weapons the tentacles do D6+2 damage.
Thick Skin: The Takel has natural Armour 1.
Enhanced Jet Propulsion: When using their jet propulsion (see below) the Takel gains an additional +3 metres that it may move in a turn.
Amphibian: The Takel is adapted for both land and water habitats, and may breathe air, but still needs a survival suit to venture into alien oceans and must ingest Umina-specific chemicals daily.

Psionic Sharing
In Takel who have a Psionic Strength characteristic, the ability to draw upon their environment for power is present. A Takel can power their talents by taking Psionic Strength from willing participants within a radius equal to Psi DM x 10 metres. The psion may take a single Psi point from one being per point of the psion’s Psi DM to power a talent. All participants must be fully submerged in the same body of water.

Takel Characters
When creating a Takel character, make the following adjustments:

Str –2
Notable Dex (4D6)
End –2
Edu +1

Aquatic: The Takel cannot operate outside Umina’s ocean (including other oceanic environments) without using survival suits.
Jet Propulsion: If a Takel chooses to do nothing but move for its turn and is in a fluid medium, it may use their innate jet propulsion system to double its movement. Each time it does this counts as two rounds of action for the purposes of fatigue.
Multi-tasking: Due to their complex neural systems, Takel gain an extra minor action each round.

To adventure outside of their ocean, including within an alien ocean, a Takel requires a survival suit.

Survival Suit (TL 13)
The suit is of non-Takel manufacture and must be imported. It is a nearly skin-tight apparatus that provides the salt water mixture a Takel requires to live,  including the unique mixture of chemicals peculiar to Umina. Using this suit, the Takel can survive and interact on land and within alien oceans. The survival suit costs Cr. 4,500 and requires Cr. 20 worth of chemical refills per week. A completely transparent model costs Cr. 13,500.

Takel Society
Takel live on Umina (C66A622-7 S R NI Ri Wa), and have done so for the entirety of their civilisation, which stretches back at least 32,000 years. This age is only verified by historical account, not by archaeology, as the lack of minerals on Umina and the mildly-corrosive nature of its ocean means few artefacts of the past have survived.

The Takel govern themselves by convention, meeting every two Umina years (4.4 Earth years) to settle important matters and direct Takel efforts. Once a majority of 80% agree on a course of action, that plan is enacted. Disagreements seldom arise, not because the Takel get along uncommonly well, but because of their individualistic natures. Takel leave one another to their own plans on the understanding they will not be bothered by their companions.

Takel science is somewhat lacking in most areas. Without access to vast mineral resources on the very sparse land of Umina, the Takel have not achieved much in the way of transportation or computer technology. As they are perfectly adapted to their environment, the Takel never researched housing or buildings beyond basic protective barriers to keep safe from large predators. The Takel have excelled in creating personal weapons and traps to defend themselves against the megafauna that stalk Umina, and their skill with medicine is astonishing. The Takel quickly adapted their own medical technology for other species after first contact. Since Umina is mineral-poor, offworld traders provide the Takel with TL 7 or TL 8 equipment they do not have the infrastructure to manufacture for themselves, while Takel medicine is at TL 14 and nearing TL 15.

Takel have a very permissive attitude with regard to body modification, as they do not have an orthodox ‘look’ to the species, and they are tolerant of physical forms outside of the norm. Rather than cybernetic enhancements, the Takel usually opt for biological enhancements. Some of the most popular include crustacean claws, bio-electrical shock systems, limb regeneration and echolocation organs. These are also some of the most popular augments that the Takel sell, after gills and corrosive-resistant skin.

Within galactic society the Takel play a minor role. Those who venture away from Umina generally find work as doctors, entertainers, scouts (especially useful on aquatic worlds) and soldiers. Few Takel do leave their world, however, as many find the need for a survival suit to be too great a burden for the chance to adventure. Umina’s ocean contains a certain mix of chemicals that the Takel require in order to survive, and so in addition to wearing a survival suit, the suit must be precisely calibrated.

Adventures
The majority of adventures involving Takel will take place on Umina. The small ocean planet contains scant few islands, but corporate and scientific interests have constructed a floating city, Namitam, that serves as the planet’s downport. Submarine tours are available for hire and the Takel will welcome strangers to their sea floor settlements, out of curiosity, if not hospitality. Umina has several sites of interest.

There is a portal near the southern pole, of unknown design. It is actually a jump gate, linking Umina with an unknown watery realm. The water within this realm contains the same mix of chemicals required to support Takel life, but does not appear to have a solid surface, although large spheroids of rock do float within it. It is home to all manner of aquatic creatures, as well as jump gates to other planets with a Hydrographic score of 7 or greater. The portal is large enough to allow passage to a submarine twice the size of modern nuclear subs.

A psion cult is hidden near the ruins. They are led by a mad Takel priest who wants to use the portal to hydroform the planets linked to the portal to be hospitable for Takel life. This would, of course, utterly decimate the native ecosystem of the hydroformed planet. The cult use their abilities of Telekinesis, Energy Kinesis and Psionic Attack to devastating effect (see Book 4: Psion). Additionally, the cult may inundate the minds of Travellers with images of their monstrous deity and false dangers, perhaps causing them to turn on their comrades or open the airlock while underwater. If the cult detect scholarly minds with appropriate political connections or technical knowledge they will try to capture and brainwash the crew in order to receive the information and materials their operation requires.

Campaigns
Takel perhaps work best as a supporting force. They make fine patrons in that most of what they want in terms of material must be imported and few Takel have the desire to leave their homes. Takel NPCs should be socially outgoing, but reserved enough to not readily allow strangers into their inner circle.

Takel encountered off-world will usually be merchants selling medicine or doctors offering bio-augmentations. Because of the cost of living incurred with the required modifications to most of their equipment, Takel medical supplies and other wares should be offered at a higher price than usual. Of course, Takel medical services are often more advanced than those readily available, so players will likely have use for them.

If the referee decides to use the Takel as an enemy, the easiest way would be by using the southern jump gate and the psionic cult that guards it. The referee should feel free to make the hydroforming apparatus work swiftly, eradicating native ecosystems quickly. For added threat, allow the Takel to win their first planet with ease, taking the capital of whatever government the players serve, Earth, or a player’s homeworld. In true battle the Takel would prove to be a serious nuisance, utilising guerilla tactics like stealth strikes and harrying units.

 

On Assignment

Every now and again, one question pops up on our Traveller forums – after finishing a term during character creation, how do you change assignments within the same career? If, for example, you are a marine working in Support, can you buck for some ‘trigger time’ and become a Star Marine or join a Ground Assault battalion?

Before we give the grand answer to this eternal dilemma, it is worth pointing out that Traveller is not like many other roleplaying games. Balance between characters is far more nebulous, and this is down to the nature of the game.

At its most fundamental level, Traveller is about ordinary people trying to make their way in the world.  Your character has just finished his career and is effectively getting a second start in life, built on his past experiences.  He may have a pension, my have some savings but, other than that, how he gets on in life is up to you. Maybe your character will be a trader, plying the space lanes in a succession of larger freighters as his bank balance increases. Perhaps he will be a mercenary, intentionally seeking war zones and lending his service to the highest bidder. Or he could just ‘see what is out there,’ exploring the galaxy and taking whatever work happens to pop up on the next planet. You could start your own business, mine asteroids, start a criminal organisation, be a space ship salesman (or thief), or become the galaxy’s greatest (ageing) rock star.

Given that, balance between characters is not much use and we intentionally don’t give it much more than a nod in terms of the number of skills and credits a character can earn in a career. After all, one of your friends may be determined to build a combat monster whereas you might prefer to play a ‘face man’ who can bend people round his little finger with a little silver-tongued work. Just as in the real world, both characters have their merits – after all, a blood-thirsty maniac would be no good to us here at Mongoose when it comes to laying out books (Will is more your silent, cloaked assassin type).

So, back to the question; after finishing a term during character creation, how do you change assignments within the same career? Can you just switch, do you need to roll to enlist again, or what?

Here is the official answer…

It doesn’t really matter.

Really, it does not matter.  You are not going to break the game or end up with a monstrous, unbalanced character whichever method you choose – or whether you choose not to allow it at all.

All I can really tell you is what we do in our own games in the office. And before I go on, let me stress that this does not in any way denote the ‘proper’ way of playing the game. It really is just what we do. By all means take this as a starting point for your own campaigns or choose your own options. It is your game and we won’t be busting down your door for doing it differently!

When I am running the character creation session, I tend to vary between allowing an automatic switch and rolling for qualification/enlistment again.  Which is usually determined by the career and also the character involved – an Event may suggest a change in career path, or the player may make a good case for why his character should be allowed to make the change, based on the personality of the character and where the player wants to take him. When rolling for qualification/enlistment, however, I don’t usually use the negative DM for previous careers. After all, the character is already in the career and has, to an extent, already proved himself. Of course, you may want to impose your own penalties if the character has had a string of rather unfortunate Events…

Here are some examples of how we do things.

Agent
If a character is in Law Enforcement, it makes plenty of sense for them to make an automatic move to Corporate, especially after a notable event, good or bad (good may mean they are headhunted, bad may mean the character was ‘encouraged; to leave law enforcement and had no choice but to go corporate). If, however, the player wants to take the character into Intelligence, this may be automatic if (for example) they get Event 8 and successfully go undercover to investigate an enemy and impress an intelligence agency. On the other hand, without such a boost, a straight qualification roll may be more appropriate.

Army, Navy and Marines
These can all be treated in a similar way, and we normally do this based on whether the assignment can be seen as a ‘sideways’ move or is a fast track to something more in the limelight.  For example, in your campaign, Support and Infantry in the army may be seen as being the ‘core’ of an armed force and therefore at a similar level as each other, allowing automatic swaps between them. However, if Cavalry is seen as being somehow more important or a ‘cut above’ the rest of the army, then an enlistment roll may be the way to go. On the other hand, if someone in the Infantry rolls, say, Event 12 and displays heroism in battle, perhaps a switch in assignment may be an automatic benefit as well as the promotion or commission.

Citizen
Well, how many times have you changed job in your life?  It is entirely appropriate to switch assignments on the fly with the Citizen career.

Drifter
Unlike the Citizen career, being a Drifter is more likely to lock a character into a certain way of life, and so it may be better to treat each one as a separate career in its own right. After all, if you have a Scavenger working as part of a salvage crew, he is unlikely to suddenly become a Barbarian – though maybe something like Event 8, where the character is attacked by enemies, could not only leave him injured but marooned on a low tech world. Now that is a great plot hook to bring back into the game later in the campaign!

Nobility
I would tend to let players switch between Administrator and Diplomat as they saw fit, as the two can have some obvious links as the character becomes one of the movers and shakers of their world. However, Dilettante… Maybe it is just me, but I am not sure such characters will end up doing anything truly worthwhile!

Ranks
The final question when switching assignments is how to handle Ranks and, again, I would base it upon the career in question.  If you are switching between assignments within the same military (such as our Army example above), then it makes perfect sense for the character to retain their current Rank and, hopefully build upon it. The same can be said for more informal organisations or even different organisations that have a common basis. For example, a Rogue who starts as an Enforcer, becomes a Thief and ends up as a Pirate could perhaps retain his Rank through all assignments (gaining Skills and Benefits only as he ranks up within each assignment, so you don’t get to ‘double up’ on Benefits), with the reasoning that their reputation is growing and begins to precede them. Someone who has made his name as an Enforcer or Thief could easily be accorded great respect among Pirates. The same argument cold be made for Citizens, as their CV/resume gains weight.

On the other hand, perhaps it does not work so well for Entertainers. How many times has a real world celebrity decided they are no longer a singer/actor/socialite and tried to do something ‘serious’ only for their career to disappear down the plug hole? And, again, the Drifter has somewhat defined lines between its assignments and keeping Rank makes little sense there.

In these cases, it is perhaps better to muster out, get your cash/benefits, then roll for the qualification and start as Rank 0 in a different assignment, effectively treating it as a new career.

The Golden Rule here is to not hamper a player in what he wants to do with his character. There are enough dice rolls to end his character’s greatest dreams already, and if he wants to attempt to do something with his character, let him.  His choices and the dice rolls that follow will determine whether his career choices are the right ones…