Tag Archives: H. Beam Piper

Spherical Space Ships

In science fiction we have seen lots of spherical space ships. We remember the ships used by the Space Vikings by H. Beam Piper and the Death Star from Star Wars and the Heart of Gold from the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the ship from E.T. and the Borg Sphere from Star Trek: First Contact and lots of more.

Space Viking - Mercenary Cruiser
Image from Project Gutenberg. Copyright expired.

In Traveller we have the Mercenary Cruiser and the Tigress class. We all know that the Mercenary Cruiser is supposed to be able to land. But in Traveller it cannot do that since it is only partially streamlined and the rules say that it then cannot land. I think it should be able to land under certain conditions. These conditions might be a slow decent and no flying in the atmosphere. For a quick assault, the cutters would still be needed.

Some pretty pictures of the Mercenary Cruiser:

Some pretty pictures of the Tigress:

Peter Elson, who has painted a lot of the images for TTA (that we love) has also made a spherical ship. This ship is also able to land in an atmosphere.

The Long Result by Peter Elson.
The Long Result by Peter Elson.
Posted by permission of the estate of Peter Elson.
© Peter Elson.


Patron: Businessman/Investor
Required skills: any, technical skills helpful
Required equipment: none

The situation:
The patron has recently acquired at auction the ownership of the land & property of a failed colony on an in-system moon, planetoid or planet. Whatever the location, the atmospheric conditions required a sealed habitat. The characters are among a group that the patron has hired to travel to the habitat and conduct an initial assessment. They will be transported to the location by shuttle or the PCs own craft; their goals are to assess damage, get the life support and other machinery working again, and begin cleanup in advance of a more dedicated construction team. The habitat was sold at government auction, and is certified to have failed for political/economic reasons rather than disease or disaster. Payment will depend upon the skills a character brings to the expedition, technical skills will be most valued. The total size of the group is equal to 2D+2, but there should be at least two NPCs making the trip. The patron will not be there in person, but can be contacted by radio from the shuttle. The patron has agreed to grant salvage rights to the characters for any personal (i.e. non-structural) items left behind.

The habitat
The habitat : Image from wikimedia. Public domain. Created by NASA.

Referee’s Information:
The referee will create plans for the habitat. It can be above ground or underground, but must be sealed. The habitat was large enough for maybe 200 persons at the most. Include a landing area with airlocks and some adjoining storehouses. It should be sufficiently remote that help is a while in coming, and trips back to the main planet are impractical.

1. No unusual problems – it will take several days to repair, refuel and restart all the machinery; referee can determine difficulty of repair tasks. Any characters searching the habitat may find a few 100 Credits worth of salvageable goods.

2. As number 1, but the habitat made use of numerous robots controlled by the central computer, which were left ‘on’ and ran out of power. When power is restored, the robots will reactivate, causing problems for the characters until switched off or given new commands.* Also, salvageable goods worth several 1000s of credits can be found

3. As number 1, but while searching for salvage, evidence of a murder is discovered in the form of a dead body full of bullet holes. The habitat will be declared a crime scene and sealed off. The characters may be hired as detectives to track down the former inhabitants. Also, salvageable goods worth tens of thousands of credits can be found. PCs or NPCs may have trouble getting things out past the police, who would consider it potential evidence.

4. A legitimate shipping company has been using the habitat as a storage facility, under abandoned property laws. The storehouses are full of their stuff, clearly marked and bearing appropriate shipping documents. No agent of the company is present when the characters arrive, but if they enter the storehouse, a transponder will notify the company and they will assume the group are bandits when they arrive.

5. There is evidence of seismic activity, and portions of the habitat may be structurally unsound. Additional tremors may cause collapses, sinkholes or breach of seals. Salvageable goods are as in number 2 or number 3.

6. A gang of pirates has been using the habitat as a base. The storehouses are full of their stolen goods. The pirates, equal in number to the whole group, are there at the base, and will fight to keep their stuff and contain knowledge of their presence.

In all cases, the referee must determine the flow of subsequent events.

* There is an amusing chapter in H. Beam Pipers The Cosmic Computer where this happens to the main characters. Adjust the level of danger to suit your game.

Sword Worlds revisited by Mongoose

Sword Worlds from Mongoose
Sword Worlds from Mongoose

What has Mongoose done to the Sword Worlds? Do I need this book? These are the questions that I will try to answer here.

The cover of the book is quite cool, but it doesn’t look like the soldiers in the image are Sword Worlders at all. 😐

Interior art is not bad either. I just feel it is too much Viking themed, and not really showing the hi-tec spacefaring culture that I wanted to see. The deckplans are fine and the 3D rendering of the Jarl is ok. It can be seen in colour at Biomass Art.

There are a few contradictions in the introduction of the book. Are the Sword Worlds a dangerous place or a popular place to visit? Are there no physical differences from original Solomani or is the average male weight 105 kg, and the females pregnant for 10 months? Then there is also (a likely) bug in the naming rules, since the female surname possessive form is missing, but not the male possessive form.

How did they come up with the Army Ranking table? I don’t think that matches any Scandinavian army. (SWE, NOR, DEN)

There are 3 new careers. The first one is the Aesirist Church. This isn’t something that I like. It is too Viking themed. I will not use it in MTU. The next one is The Patrol. From old JTAS #18. This is a good idea to include. The third is Jäger Command. I think it should really be part of Marines or Army, as special forces.

The origin of sagamaal and the vocabulary makes some sense. Currency and exchange rate was a good thing to include. History is a bit messed up. It’s interesting but doesn’t match the previous publications.

In the Worlds chapter, the world listing of the subsector is missing the worlds outside the Sword Worlds. The atmosphere of Enos is explained in the same way as in the GURPS SW module. (To keep Traveller fun, these things should be ignored so that the referee can deal with in a different way.) Mithril matches the old adventure Mission on Mithril.

The equipment list is nice, but there are some items that are just too Viking themed. There are a nice selection of ships. Some parts of the encounter tables are fine, and the animals are interesting. The miniphants has been changed. They are not the same miniphants as in JTAS #16.

There are some proofreading errors (as usual). There are some extra-large apostrophes. There is a reference to a class III starport. (That is what a type C starport is called in GURPS.) There are some talk about the Border Worlds (that shouldn’t exist in 1105). I get an error message in the end of the pdf. Please Mongoose, do a better job!

So, I think that parts of the book is good, and other parts are not so good. You can buy it for the good parts. Maybe you like the other parts as well. The alternative would be to use JTAS #18 and read Space Viking for free, and form your own opinion about the Sword Worlds.

Traveller Inspiration: Free e-books

Traveller was first published 1977, and was inspired by even older science fiction. While this means that the computer rules used in traveller might feel a bit obsolete, it also means that for some of the books it was inspired by, the copyright has expired. (The computer rules are quite easy to ignore or modify anyway, so that doesn’t matter much.)

At Project Gutenberg, some works that has inspired traveller can be downloaded in several formats that will fit your e-book reader. It is also possible to read them directly on the web.

Here is a suggestion of five books for you to download:

1, Space Viking by H. Beam Piper

In Space Viking, there is a group of planets called Sword Worlds that are named after legendary swords. Doesn’t that seem familiar… The image below of the spherical ships  is from the book. They look a lot like the Mercenary Cruisers from traveller.

2, Deathworld by Harry Harrison

Jason dinAlt is the hero of the Deathworld books. In the Traveller Supplement 1, 1001 Characters, you can find his stats as hero #3, the Rapscallion Gambler. Jason dinAlt is skilled in gambling and also has a psionic talent, that can help his gambling. In Traveller, gambling is a skill, and psionics isn’t impossible.

3, Gambler’s World by Keith Laumer

Jame Retief is a Diplomat for the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne. In Traveller Supplement 4, Citizens of the Imperium you can find his stats as hero #5.

4, A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Hero #1 of the Traveller Supplement 1 is John Carter. In the Solomani Rim (0239), there is a small planet named Barsoom.

5, Triplanetary by E. E. Smith

Triplanetary is a Lensman prequels. Kimball Kinnison of the Lensman series is hero #2 in the Traveller Supplement 1. GDW also published a game called Triplanetary before they published Traveller.

Mercenary Cruiser?

Image from Project Gutenberg. Copyright expired.

What makes a subsector popular?

After asking about the preferred subsector in the Spinward Marches on facebook and on CotI we can see what the online community think. From the results I have created a color coded chart for popularity. More green is more popular.

Most popular subsectors

Here we can see that the most popular subsectors are District 268 and Regina.

The reason for District 268 seems to be that it has lots of independent backwater worlds, that are great for adventure, and are close to the Imperium and the Sword Words so that there also can be some interstellar diplomatic intrigues.

For Regina, a good reason is that the players and referees feel at home here.  A lot has been published for this subsector. The first adventure (The Kinunir) started here.

Another slightly less popular subsector is the Sword Worlds. Who does not like this subsector, partly borrowed from H. Beam Piper? Rhylanor and Jewell are also popular. Probably since these are close to Regina, and also have published adventures within them.

The least popular subsectors are Lanth, Lunion and Mora. Lanth is quite divided. Its worlds more feels like they are part of Rhylanor, Vilis and Regina subsectors. Lunion and Mora are quite ordinary, and does not really have the interesting features that the popular subsectors have.

What lessons can we learn from this (if we want to create an interesting subsector)?

  • There should be some backwater independent worlds.
  • There should be 2 or more interstellar states quite close.
  • There should be obvious adventures.
  • There should be a place that can feel as home.