Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Languages Again

Language is like your Vacc Suit - don't leave home without it.
Semiotic by Dave Reddington Airlock 14
During the course of recent game play, the subject of Languages and Learnt Languages came up again – particularly as the player characters are interacting with various non-humans who don’t necessarily speak Imperial Basic as their first language. After an interesting discussion, I set to work to extend and streamline my original thoughts on Languages in Traveller.

In my earlier post on Languages, I suggested that characters have a language pool of the average of their Intelligence and Education in points to allocate to Languages that they wish to learn. Some players might wish to allocate all their points at the beginning of play to ensure that their characters have a broad suite of languages. Others might chose to take one secondary language to a conversational level, or several languages to a basic information swapping level and effectively bank their remaining language points until the prospect of venturing into a new region of space requires them to learn a new language.

I’m still inclined to retain the Language Points pool because, as a resource allocation tool, it obliges players to make decisions, rather than just have their characters become polyglots. The process of making decisions about the languages characters learn tends to get the players more involved with both their characters and the milieu their characters inhabit. Languages served up in bulk, or for gratis, I find, tend to be noted and then forgotten about, including by the Games Master.

Languages and Learning Languages
A Character’s ability to learn languages is a measure of the Character’s Language Aptitude Skill. Once a Character has acquired Language Aptitude Skill, Language Potential points can be determined and then the Character can assign these Language Potential points to indicate his or her fluency in a particular language.

There are two ways a Character can acquire Language Aptitude Skill:
1) Following Character Generation, a Character may roll to see if he or she has received Language Aptitude Skill during service:
To receive Language Aptitude Skill: Roll 10+, DM+1 if Int 9+, +1 if Edu 9+, +2 if Int and Edu 10+, +1 per term with the potential for contact with other languages and cultures. Such terms can include Assignments to Training Schools or Officer Training Schools, or various missions in the field, or Navy Life, or Army Life, etc.
For every two points the Language Aptitude Skill roll is exceeded by, the Character gains +1 Language Potential points to his or her base Language Potential points pool.

2) Alternatively, a Character may convert one skill level in either Steward or Carousing into Language Aptitude Skill. Language Potential points are then determined in the manner outlined below.

Both of these methods permit a character to begin play with an existing suite of languages. Unassigned language points may be retained. These represent future language potential but, once play begins, these language points can only be assigned after the Character has undertaken a course of study – see below. Established Characters may determine their Language Aptitude as per method 1 at any time during their Adventuring career and, if successful, they can determine their Language Potential points pool. As Established Characters are deemed to be learning languages later in life, they will have to spend time actually learning a language (either via chip, or tape, or with an instructor) rather than starting play with already learnt languages – apart from their native language, of course.

Language Points pool:
Once a Character has gained Language Aptitude Skill, he or she gains a Language Potential points pool. This is determined by averaging Intelligence and Education stat scores, and can be modified if the Character exceeds the roll required to acquire Language Aptitude Skill – see above. This point pool can be used to buy a Skill Level in a new language, or to increase the character’s fluency in an already purchased language.
A character will have a native language to Fluency Level 3. Characters with Education of 9+ automatically increase their native language to Fluency Level 4 at no cost. Characters with Education 12+ automatically increase their native language to Fluency Level 5 at no cost.

Learning New Languages or Increasing Fluency in Learned Languages:
Characters without Language skill must first gain Language Aptitude Skill. By undertaking a six month course of study, they learn how to learn languages. Such a course can be undertaken by tape or chip, and the course software will set and evaluate course work. At the end of the six month course, the Character must attend a finishing course of two weeks duration at an A or B Class Starport to successfully graduate the course and gain Language Aptitude Skill. The course costs Cr500 and requires a roll of 10+ to pass, DMs, +1 if Int 10+, +1 if Edu 10+. Once the Character has gained Language Aptitude Skill (the course may be taken as often as required, at Cr500 per time), he or she gains a Language Potential pool of the average of Int and Edu in points to assign to learning languages.

A Character attempting to learn a new Language must undertake a six month period of study, either via chip or tape, or with a tutor (who must have both Instruction Skill and at least Level 3 Fluency in the language being studied). If a tutor is engaged, then the Character must remain based in the tutor’s locality for the duration of the course. A study course costs Cr500 (Cr2000 if using the services of a tutor, Cr6000 plus a High Passage return ticket if the tutor is required to accompany the Character) and requires a two week intensive study and evaluation period at its conclusion at either an A or B Class starport or at a school with a teacher who must have both Instruction Skill and at least one Level of fluency in the language higher than the level the Character wishes to attain. Roll 10+ to gain a Level 2 Fluency in the language being studied; DMs +1 Int 9+, +1 Edu 9+, +2 Int and Edu 10+, +2 if using a tutor. If the required roll is exceeded by 2, then a Level 3 Fluency is attained.

Fluency levels:
Level 1: Basic Communication – “Where this?” “How much?” “Where food?”
Level 2: Average Communication – “ I needs hydropump for this many days” “You want how much for that?” A poorly educated native speaker (Education 3 – 5) with limited vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks with a heavy accent of origin and tends to mangle syntax or grammar.
Level 3: Good Communication – Native speaker with average education (Education 6 – 8) and vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks like a native, though still retains accent of origin.
Level 4: Excellent Communication – Native speaker with advanced education (Education 9 –11) and expanded vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks like a well educated native and able to debate history, art, poetry, politics, etc. Still retains a trace of accent of origin, though usually not noticeable to a native speaker.
Level 5: Superb Communication – Native speaker with superior education (Education 12 – 14) and extensive vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks like a well-educated native. Has possibly studied older forms of the language and can make allusions to classical authors, etc.

Language Point pool costs:
A Character’s native language does not cost any points and is usually at Fluency Level 3. Characters with Edu 9+ and Edu 12+ automatically gain Fluency Level 4 or 5 respectively at no cost. A Character with Fluency Level 3 or lower can increase his or her fluency in his or her native language in exactly the same way he, or she would increase Fluency in another language – by undertaking a six month course of study and rolling 10+ to raise the Fluency level by one, at the cost of one Language Point.

If Languages points are assigned during Character generation then each Fluency Level in each language learned costs 1 Language Pool point, except for the Character’s native language, which the Character gains for zero points. If the Character subsequently learns a new Language, and successfully completes the Language course (see above) then the initial Fluency Level of 2 is gained for 1 Language point. If the Character exceeds the required roll of 10+ by 2, the bonus of attaining Fluency Level 3 costs the same ie 1 Language point. Further courses of study cost 1 Language point per level of Fluency.

For example, Eeather swaps a level of Steward for Language Skill during Character generation. She has Intelligence 9 and Education 8. Averaging her two stats, she has a Language Point pool of 8 to play with. As a native of Feor, she already speaks Gamelean Basic (with a Feorian accent) to Level 3. Eeather is a Merchant and decides that picking up a couple of extra languages could be a good career move. Passage through Kalar-Wi space opens markets in the Cabria and Lymethius subsectors so she decides that taking Kalar-Wi to Level 2 for two points is a good starter. Beyond Kalar-Wi lies the Aslan Huiha Esoyatre in Lymethius subsector, so Eeather takes Trokh Esoyatre to Level 4 for four points, as Aslan, while pretty touchy about matters of pride and honour, respect someone who respects their language and culture. With her final two points, Eeather takes Trade Lingo, a pidgin language commonly used by merchants moving to and fro across the Imperial Border.

In summary, Eeather speaks:
Gamelean Imperial Basic Level 3 (Feorian accent)
Kalar-Wi Level 2 (Strong Feorian accent)
Trokh Esoyatre Level 4 (Slight Feorian accent)
Trade Lingo Level 2 (Strong Feorian accent)

As a Merchant Broker or Factor, she will be an asset to any ship crossing the Imperial Frontier.

Eeather’s cousin, Fargan, is also a Merchant. A bright (Int 9) and well-educated (Edu 10) scion of the family, he decides to roll for Language Aptitude Skill at the end of Character generation. Rolling 10, +1 for Int 9+, +1 for Edu 9+, +1 for an Exploratory Trade Mission assignment gives a total of 13, or three points more than the 10+ required to receive Language Aptitude Skill, so Fargan gains Language Aptitude Skill and +1 to his Language Potential points pool. With Int 9 and Edu 10, Fargan has a Base language Point pool of 9, +1 from his Language Aptitude roll equals 10 points.

As a Feorian native, Fargan speaks Gamelean Basic (with a Feorian accent) to Level 3, but his Education of 10 increases this to Level 4 (Slight Feorian accent) for zero points. As Kalar-Wi is handy to Feor, Fargan decides that taking Vriok (the Kalar-Wi language) to Level 3 (Feorian accent) for three points is a good move. He decides to spend a further 2 points on Trade Lingo Level 2 (Strong Feorian Accent). Undecided where adventure might take him, Fargan decides to “bank” his remaining 5 Language points until he works out where he might be travelling. After a year spent pottering around the Gamelea Subsector, the opportunity for a long voyage to Rimward presents itself. Consulting his Library Data, Fargan picks up Learn Language chips for Arrghoun – a Vargr language spoken in the Hunt of Rronurl – and Kassuriik – the language of the Purvions, a Minor Race native to Lithia/Miazan. During the six month trip to Lithia, Fargan dutifully completes his language course and then spends a two week lay-over at Miazan on his finals. He rolls 8, +1 for Int9+, +1 for Edu 9+ gives him a total of 10+. He gains Kassuriik Level 2 (Strong Feorian Accent) for 1 Language Point and now has to start work on his Arrghoun.

At this point he speaks:
Gamelean Imperial Basic (Slight Feorian Accent) Level 4
Vriok (Feorian Accent) Level 3
Trade Lingo (Strong Feorian Accent) Level 2
Kassuriik (Strong Feorian Accent) Level 2
He is in the process of learning Arrghoun and has four Language points still to assign.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Secrets in Sulphur - Design Notes

The Akhska is of a type of Far Trader known as a "Rim Runner". Favoured by Vargr Special Forces and raiders for its J-3 range, the Gaeouz Class' reduced cargo hold makes it barely economical as a trading vessel.

In the Outrim, Gaeouz Class Rim Runners are often found serving as couriers or packet ships, moving important personal between far flung systems.

Ship: Akhska
Class: Gaeouz
Type: Far Trader
Architect: David Billinghurst
Tech Level: 12

USPAP-2633431-030000-10000-0 MCr 156.332200 Tons
Bat Bear 24 Crew: 7
Bat  2 4 TL: 12

Cargo: 17 Passengers: 4 Crew Sections: 1 of 7 Fuel: 68 EP: 8 Agility: 1
Craft: 1 x 4T Air/Raft
Fuel Treatment: Fuel Scoops and On Board Fuel Purification

Architects Fee: MCr 1.557   Cost in Quantity: MCr 125.186

Detailed Description
  (High Guard Design)

200.000 tons standard, 2,800.000 cubic meters, Flattened Sphere Configuration

Pilot, 2 Engineers, Steward, Medic, 2 Gunners

Jump-3, 3G Manuever, Power plant-4, 8.000 EP, Agility 1

Bridge, Model/3 Computer

2 Hardpoints

2 Triple Mixed Turrets each with: 2 Beam Lasers (Factor-1).

1 Sandcaster in each Mixed Turret, organised into 2 Batteries (Factor-3)

1 4.000 ton Air/Raft (Crew of 0, Cost of MCr 0.600)

68 Tons Fuel (3 parsecs jump and 28 days endurance)
On Board Fuel Scoops, On Board Fuel Purification Plant

8 Staterooms, 4 High Passengers, 17 Tons Cargo


MCr 157.289 Singly (incl. Architects fees of MCr 1.557), MCr 124.586 in Quantity, plus MCr 0.600 of Carried Craft

57 Weeks Singly, 46 Weeks in Quantity

Known as "Rim Runners", Gaeouz Class Far Traders are favoured by Vargr Special Forces and raiders for missions to Rimward of the RimWorlds, or for deep penetration raids within Imperial space.

Gaeouz Class Far Trader

Hull: 0.000 Td; MCr 16.000
Armour Factor-0: 0.000 Td; MCr 0.000

M-Drive Factor-3: 16.000 Td; MCr 8.000
J-Drive Factor-3: 8.000 Td; MCr 32.000
P-Plant Factor-4: 24.000 Td; MCr 72.000; +8.000 EP

P-Fuel: 8.000 Td; MCr 0,000
J-Fuel: 60.000 Td; MCr 0.000
Scoops: 0.000 Td; MCr 0.200
Purification: 6.000 Td; MCr 0.032
L-Hyd Drop Tanks: 0.000 Td; MCr 0.000

Bridge: 20.000 Td; MCr 1.000
Computer Model/3: 3.000 Td; MCr 18.000; -1 EP

2 x Mixed Turrets: 2.000 Td; MCr 4.500


1 x Air/Raft: 4.000Td; MCr 0.000; Cost of craft: MCr 0.600

8.0 x Staterooms: 32.000 Td; MCr 4.000
Cargo: 17.000 Td; MCr 0.000


Monday, 18 March 2013

Secrets in Sulphur Session 3

Dylan was unable to make Session 3 of my Classic Traveller game, so I ran Chivers as an NPC.

Our cast of characters:
John – Boris Clapshaw, ex Army Infantry Sergeant
Jonathan – Riishaa Daanel, ex Marine
Dylan – Count Asenault “Chivers” Washington-Pipps, retired Marine Colonel
Chris – “Bunty” Staffburger, ex Marine Force Commander

Session 1 is here and Session 2 is here.

Attempting to find "Bunty" Staffburger's lady friend, Selia, who has gome missing out on the sulphur flats of Por'via, Staffburger and his friends "Chivers" Washington-Pipps, Riishaa Daanel and Boris Clapshaw stumble across gem thieves, mysterious Vargr, fast and vicious alien life forms, and a buried shuttle craft crewed by the enigmatic Mi'yargin. The Mi'yargin's efforts to rescue Selia have resulted in her body being artifically sustained while her conciousness has merged with the Mi'yargin Collective. After ridding the shuttle craft of an infestation of vicious irrijari, the Mi'yargin take off from Por'via to rendezvous with their Nullship.

Game Play
Chivers and the guys make themselves as comfortable as they can in the methane atmosphere of the Mi’yargin small craft as it begins the long haul to Harrimol VIII, the Por’via System gas giant. Once there, the Mi'yargin intend to rendezvous with their Nullship, hidden in the ring system. Behind them, the Vargr freighter Akhska, which left Por’via about the same time as the Mi’yargin shuttle, is following a similar heading towards the gas giant. As yet, neither the party nor the Mi'yargin have been able to establish what its purpose might be.

Three days after leaving Por’via, the Mi’yargin shuttle is deep in the system of moons and rings around the large gas giant. The holographic projector in the Mi’yargin Second’s room shows the shuttle’s projected orbital track. It appears to intersect the track of a large, icy object within the ring plane.

As the shuttle begins to dip into the ring plane, Chivers and the guys are shown an image of the object they are closing with. While it appears to be an icy planetesimal, several hundred metres in diameter, the regularity of its shape and the smoothness of its exterior make it stand out as a possible artificial construct. As the ship draws closer, Clapshaw and Daanel make out what appears to be a rather regular shaped crater in the surface of the planetesimal. Very soon their suspicions are confirmed as the shuttle prepares to land within the crater – the crater is actually a docking bay and the planetesimal is the Mi’yargin Nullship.

With little fuss, the shuttle comes to rest in the docking bay and an ice-covered gantry extrudes from the docking bay wall to connect to the shuttle. Informed that they will have to make the crossing to the Nullship in vacuum, Clapshaw and Daanel point out that only they have sealed combat armour. Chivers and Staffburger are still wearing their combat environment suites which are fast reaching the end of their operational lives. The Second places a small, jelly-like blob on Chivers’ and Staffburger’s CES helmets. After a moment, the blobs spread out to envelope both men’s Environment suits. A type of nanotech, the blobs are programmed to form vacuum seals around objects they are placed upon.

After crossing the gantry, the party enter the Nullship. They discover a short corridor which leads to what looks like a subway car. There is a dull bronze-coloured half-globe on the wall of the car. Eventually, Staffburger discovers that the globe acts as both a communication device and a controller for the subway car. Quickly, he learns that he can call up a schematic of the Nullship and, by connecting two points on the schematic, direct the subway car across, and through, the ship. The interior of the Nullship, it seems, is in a state of fluidity, shaping and reshaping itself as required.

Meanwhile, Selia contacts them via the half-globe. She tells them that the Mi’yargin Collective from the Shuttle is in the process of reintegrating itself into the Collective of the Nullship. As this process will take a little time and a lot of attention and energy, the Collective request that the party deal with the potentially hostile ship that is now in final approach. Manipulating the half-globe, Staffburger is able to direct its point of view beyond the interior of the Nullship and spots the Akhska, the Vargr freighter, preparing to land near the shuttle dock. Staffburger is able to manoeuvre the subway car to a point near where the ship touches down. He also locates a series of spiracles that allow access to the surface from near-surface passages.

Soon, seven suited and armed Vargr leave the Akhska and head towards the shuttle bay. As soon as they pass over the Nullship’s horizon, Chivers, Daaeel and Clapshaw pop out of a spiracle directly under the Akhska while Staffburger continues to monitor the situation from the subway car. Clambering up the ladder to the main lock, Clapshaw discovers that the external hatch hasn’t been secured. Quickly cycling the lock, Clapshaw, Daanel and Chivers squeeze in and cycle through. They emerge in the ship’s suit room, much to the surprise of the Vargr guarding the lock. A sudden movement on his part sets Daneel and Clapshaw off, with fatal results for the Vargr. Daanel, Clapshaw and Chivers then quickly move to secure the ship. Another Vargr is found on bridge watch but he wisely surrenders.

By the time Staffburger makes it aboard, the Vargr expeditionary force is aware that something is amiss and is heading back towards the Akhska. While the Mi’yargin Nullship looks like a small moon, it lacks the mass to generate more than a fractional gravitational field so the Vargr are attempting to hurry across the surface while wearing magnetic boots to stop them achieving escape velocity. Chivers makes contact with the Vargr, inviting them to surrender while Daanel climbs up through the dorsal hatch to take up a firing position on the upper hull of the ship. While most Vargr living in Imperial Space in the RimWorlds speak a language called Gvegh – or one of several dialects derived from it, the Vargr that the party are currently engaged with speak Arrghoun – a much more ancient language. Consequently, not a lot of headway is made with negotiations until they discover that one of the Vargr speaks Trade Lingo, a pidgin version of Imperial Basic. Even this does little to resolve the stand-off, as the Vargr, having lost Charisma by losing their ship, can only regain Charisma by retaking the ship and suitably punishing the humans.

Daanel, from the upper hull, and Clapshaw, from the main hatch, are soon matching their gauss rifles against the laser rifles and accelerator rifles of the Vargr. With little cover on the surface of the Nullship, the Vargr are quickly over-matched and disposed of, leaving the party in control of the ship.

A short time later, the Mi’yargin Collective resumes communication with the party, still ensconced aboard the Vargr ship and trying to make sense of the ship's controls and computer which are all labelled in Arrghoun. The Collective offers its assistance. From fragmentary notes in a journal in a safe in the Captain's cabin, and from partially translated communications in the ship's log, the Collective gains the impression that the Vargr have come a long way, from Waystar in Cabria Subsector, on a mission for a "Lord Whipworm" - Aeroukh Doaengosra in Arrghoun. The Collective wonder if this "Lord Whipworm" might, in fact, be an old enemy of the Mi'yargin - the Danshihabi.

Expressing their gratitude and satisfaction with the party, the Mi’yargin produce the consignment of heavy metals they had promised for the party's aid against the irrijari. They also pass up any claim to the Vargr ship. While the party are debating how they will move the ship as none of them is a skilled pilot, the Mi’yargin indicate that, in return for the party undertaking to locate Lord Whipworm, and to bring such information as they can gather to a rendezvous with the Mi'yargin in the Yuar System in Cabria Subsector, they might be able to help. A long, sarcophagus-like storage container is added to the cargo pallet laden with the promised heavy metals. When Staffburger asks, rather plaintively, after Selia, the Collective indicate that her body is being remodelled to continue to live, but that her conciousness is becoming increasingly integrated into the Collective. Staffburger begins to doubt whether she will ever return to him.

After the cargo pallet is wheeled into the ship’s cargo bay, the party gather around to consider the sarcophagus, and what it might contain.