Sunday, May 13, 2012

2295 Stellar Survey - Appendix F (Anomolies & Restricted Worlds)

Captain's Log, U.S.S. _________, H_____ S___, commanding...

We have completed our remote survey of stellar system ZA-9748PJF, usually known as the Zelazny System. Of the ten planets circling this G class star, four of them are not only class M, but inhabited. Though this, in and of itself, is not unusual; there is considerable evidence that this is an engineered situation.

Zelazny-3 is a hot, humid, jungle world with small oceans. Most native intelligent life bears great resemblance to insectoid and reptilian forms. However, there are pockets of other sapients - humanoid and more unusual forms, that my Science Officer insists are not of native origin. Also, dispersed across the planet are ruins of a mysterious nature. I believe them to be remnants of a star-faring society due to their similarities to the architectural stylings of the F______.

Zelazny-4 is a warm, ocean world. Land masses only cover ten percent of its surface and consist of three micro-continents and a plethora of islands. The native intelligent life is, quite reasonably, mainly aquatic in nature. However, the aquatic sapients are of three derivations; pseudo-piscine, pseudo-cephalopod, and aquatic humanoids. All of these appear to be in a state of war with the others. Some humanoid forms exist on Zelazny-4's scattered land masses, the majority of which appear to be related to the aquatic humanoids. Once again, my Science Officer speculates that these apparently unrelated sapients are not native to the planet. I find myself in some agreement with her, as there are traces of ruins similar to those on Zelazny-3.

Zelanzy-5 is very similar to Earth in terms of physical properties. However, unlike Earth, it is inhabited by a wide array of sapient species; the majority of whom are humanoids. Zelanzy-5 is also the most heavily populated planet in the system and as such supports a great variety of polities and ethnocultural groups. Many of these appear to be remnants of more technologically sophisticated societies. Though our scans were unable to discover any traces of ruins similar to those on the other inhabited planets, we did uncover a large amount of ruins of a bewildering assortment of styles; primitive, technological, and post-technological.

Zelanzy-6 is not a dead world, yet. But the inhabitants certainly tried to make it one once. Some form of thermonuclear apocalypse occurred roughly seven or eight hundred years ago and this has left the planet rife with deadly zones and common sense defying mutants. Due to these rampant and peculiar mutations, and the abbreviated nature of this survey, we were unable to determine the exact number of sapient species on Zelazny-6. Obviously, there are considerable ruins of the pre-apocalypse civilization, but there are also earlier ruins that appear to be of the same style as those on Zelazny-3.

None of the various governments are ready to be contacted by our federation due to their lack of star-faring technology. However, that alone would not make me recommend that this system be quarantined. There are at least two reasons I can provide that will support my recommendation of quarantine.
  1. There is considerable evidence that there is surviving, working technology from earlier periods of the system's history. The natives refer to these by multiple, usually supernatural, terms, but they do grasp the basics of how to use many of them. Mostly weapons systems, according to our scans.
  2. Across all sapient species on all planets there is a high occurrence of elevated psychic abilities. The natives possess a supernaturally themed view of such abilities and refer to them as magic. Nevertheless, they are powerful and likely to cause difficulties should we attempt to interact with the native cultures.
Accordingly, I recommend that the Zelazny System be placed on the list of restricted planetary systems, on par with the T____ System. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Unsavory Tendencies of the Vagabond

A friend recently spoke to me about a term he had either created (or heard of, I misremember) as an alternate title for player character.

It was, and is, simple, elegant, and possesses a shockingly large amount of truth to it.

The term is: murder-hobo.

A murder-hobo is a person of dubious background and no fixed abode who travels the land, murdering and robbing those that society deems antagonistic (orcs), threatening (dragons), or terrifying (mind flayers). On the frequent side of occasionally, the murder-hobo also murders and robs those that society has no particular grudge against, but this is oft-times o'er-looked because the murder-hobo is of great use in keeping down dangerous species. Also, the murder-hobo typically spends what wealth they rob, thus being a wondrous boon to the economy.

 And have you seen these people? They are damned scary... Crawling out of the ruins of a mad wizard's keep gleefully waving about barely understood and less controlled magical things that a sane person would want destroyed...

Let's just say it's often easier just to tell a murder-hobo about a new, unexplored, and conveniently far away, ruin and let them traipse off rather than lose good lives putting them down.

Frighteningly, and all kidding aside, the term makes sense.

There were many published adventures where the NPCs who are asking for the PCs' aid nevertheless treat said PCs like garbage. And suddenly that was perfectly reasonable: the NPCs thought they were murder-hobos!

And let's be fair, many PCs are murder-hobos.

They smash in a door/wall/gate, lay about with a dazzling array of deadly effects, strip the place of anything and everything remotely valuable, and proceed on to do it again until they get tired.

This is not what playing a role-playing game is all about, this is what my lovely companion refers to as "playing Duck Hunt".

There is a place for "Duck Hunt", but I am well convinced that computer games do it faster, better, and without the sinking feeling that a DM gets when their campaign goes to pieces because someone wanted to mouth off to the Duke...

Murder-hobo syndrome can be avoided, just pause before you start the slaughter and think of something else to do.

Like talking.

It won't always work, but those seven foot tarantulas might be reasonable.

The other tip to avoiding being a murder-hobo, give your PC a home. Even if it's a dive bar, something that connects that PC to the world, even a story about why the PC lost their home will work. Just make it so that your PC cares about something more than descending into a terrifying, trap-filled netherworld to loot and pillage.

And stop telling the Duke that you can eat him for breakfast, you're seventh level and he's second, of course you would wipe the walls with him, that's why he's asking for your help...