Monday, October 31, 2016

Other Universes: The Grand Unified Traveller Universe

This essay is a bit different from my standard fare. It's a parallel Traveller universe, with an attempt to include some of the ideas and species from other GDW games. Your Mileage May Vary, caveat emptor, and here be dragons - this may not be for everyone. You have been warned.

Late Victorian astronomers believed they saw canals on Mars. They were right. A slowly-dying Martian civilization was maintaining the canals in order to preserve the last vestiges of a once-global empire. As telescopes improved, it was clearly visible from Earth that there were large cities, though their condition could not be ascertained due to atmospheric shimmer. The Americans were the first to achieve a fly-by of Mars, able to take a handful of pictures as Mariner 4 passed in 1965 and many more when Mariner 9 entered orbit in 1971. Two weeks after Mariner 9 began transmitting to Earth, the Soviet Mars 2 probe attempted to land. It never communicated back to Earth; later it would be discovered that a Martian airship had shot at it during its descent, inflicting enough damage that it ended up lithobraking (i.e. plowing into the ground). Mars 3 successfully landed a week later, but was destroyed in less than half an hour by humanoids wielding firearms. Learning from the Soviet attempts to land probes near cities, the Americans sent the Viking probes to areas that appeared uninhabited, landing a pair of probes near dead canals, where they observed caravans of ruumet breehr driven by Canal Martians and Hill Martians (though the resolution was insufficient to distinguish between the two Martian types). This drove a fierce race between the two superpowers to create rockets capable of traveling to Mars and establishing relations with the indigenous people. Over the next twenty years, the Western Powers created alliances with princedoms on the Parhoon Plateau and the Nepenthes-Thoth Steppe, while the Warsaw Pact became a supporter of the Oenotrian Soviet Socialist Republic (OSSR).

The greatest benefit to come out of the discovery of Martian civilization was liftwood. Its gravity-defying properties led to scientific discoveries of how to control and manipulate gravity, leading (eventually) to the development of both artificial gravity and the reactionless drive system. These, more than anything else, would aid the Solomani during the Interstellar Wars, and were the greatest technological improvement between the First and Second Imperium. Even in the time of the Third Imperium, the core of both types of systems were essentially derivatives of the early artificial liftwood, and the loss of those chemical formulas is what eliminated the use of reactionless drives in the Regency and Reformation Coalition.

Life was also discovered on Venus, a hot planet covered in jungle and swamp, with many animals similar to Earth's dinosaurs inhabiting the world, along with a sapient race of semi-bipedal lizards. Early Venus was significantly less valuable to Earth than Mars was, although pharmaceutical developments eventually came from Venus, including early combat drug and some precursors to anagathic treatments. The existence of dinosaurs and other early Earth lifeforms has remained a source of exasperation to biologists through the eras, as has the evolution of a race on Mars so genetically similar to Humaniti that inter-breeding was possible. In truth, both of these are a result of meddling from Everyone's Favorite Ancient. At different times, Grandfather became concerned about the potential of a mass extinction event on Earth. Early on, he moved packs of dinosaurs and other reptiles to Venus, where they continued to live and evolve even after the original strains died off on Earth. Later, he moved groups of Neanderthals to Mars, where they developed in parallel to Humaniti on Earth.

These alliances would serve Earth well in the 23rd and 24th centuries, when they encountered their first extra-solar sentient species. Early on, the Sung and the Solar Alliance went to war. The Sung expected their experience with three-dimensional thinking to overcome the Solar technological advantage, but High Martian tactics negated the Sung advantage, leading to a short victorious war. Overconfidence led the Solars to become overextended, and the Kafer War devastated not just the three Solar species, but also the Ebers. It was not until Martian astronomers discovered a back door to Kafer space and negotiated an alliance with the Ylii through demonstrating that the Solar Alliance could maintain harmony between species that the war was brought to a successful conclusion, with the Alliance Navy maintaining a blockade on Kafer worlds.

It was only a couple centuries later that the Grand Alliance encountered the First Imperium, which was completely unable to handle the alliance. While the Xiang and Klaxun were not yet productive members of the Alliance, the long-range jump drive of the Eber and Ylii remote fighters provided the Grand Alliance with technologies that the First Imperium had no response for, leading to the rise of the Second Imperium.

Stat modifiers for TNE:
For S:1889, stat modifiers for Canal and Hill Martians are based on their modifiers for PCs in-game. The High Martian stat modifiers are based on their description as stronger and tougher but less intelligent and educated compared to the civilized Martians. 2300 alien races are calculated using the Education Modifiers chart as a universal bonus or penalty, and halving the numbers due to the move from a system of stats based on 4d6 to a system based on 2d6. The Ylii Edu and Cha modifiers are best guesses based on their description in Challenge magazine. Size modifiers become modifiers to Con only when calculating Hits, so larger alien species are slightly tougher to wound, while smaller ones are a little more fragile.

Canal or Hill Martian:
  • -1 Str, +1 Con. Average Hits: 14/36/24

High Martian:
  • +2 Con, -1 Int, -2 Edu, glide in low gravity and/or high pressure. Average Hits: 16/42/28
  • +2 Con, -2/0 Int, -2 Edu, -2 Cha, +2 to Con when calculating Hits.
  • Kafers normally have -2 Int, but gain +1 per round of stress until they reach 0. If they get an Int bonus for any reason, it reduces the penalty only until the third Int bonus, which gives +1 to Int permanently. Average Hits: 20/48/32

  • +1 Agi, +2 Con, +2 Int, -2 Edu, +1 Cha. Average Hits: 16/42/28

  • +1 Str, -1 Agi, +2 Con, -1 Int, -2 Edu, -2 Cha, +1 to Con when calculating Hits. Average Hits: 18/48/32

  • +2 Str, -1 Con, -1 Edu, +1 Cha, +1 to Con when calculating Hits. 
  • Head Hits are doubled due to strong bone "girdle," but any hit to the head has a chance equal to its damage dice on a d6 (i.e. a weapon with damage 2 will cause this effect on a d6 roll of 2 or less) of disabling one of the Eber's brains at random, requiring an Average Con check to regain use of that aspect of their self. Average Hits: 24/42/28

  • +2 Agi, -2 Int, -2 Edu, -1 Cha, -1 to Con when calculating Hits. Average Hits: 10/33/22

  • -2 Str, +1 Agi, +1 Con, -1 to Con when calculating Hits.
  • Sung can fly in low gravity and/or high pressure. Average Hits: 12/30/20

  • Alpha: -1 Str, +2 Agi. Average Hits: 12/33/22
  • Beta: -2 Str, +2 Agi, -1 Con, -1 Int, +1 Edu, -1 Cha, -2 to Con when calculating Hits. Average Hits: 6/21/14
  • Gamma: -2 Int, -2 Edu, -1 Cha. Average Hits: 12/36/24
  • Delta: -1 Str, +2 Agi, -2 Con, +2 Int, +1 Edu, -1 Cha. Average Hits: 8/27/18
  • Epsilon: -2 Str, +2 Agi, -1 Con, +2 Cha, -1 to Con when calculating Hits. Average Hits: 8/24/16
  • Iota: -2 Str, +2 Agi, -1 Int, +1 Edu, -1 Cha, -1 to Con when calculating Hits. Average Hits: 10/27/18
  • Zeta: -2 Str, +2 Agi, -2 Int, -2 Edu, -2 to Con when calculating Hits. Average Hits: 8/24/16
  • A Ylii's first "career" should be 6 points in appropriate skills for their species, plus a net 1 point stat boost. Net is stated there because some sub-species will have a penalty, which should be off-set by additional bonus points. See the Kafer Sourcebook and/or Challenge 50.

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