Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Aliens of Terran Space: Froguloids

Appearance and Biology
Froguloids appear as humanoid frogs roughly 1m in height.  They typically have green skin, though males often possess more exotic colors.  Sexual dimorphism is fairly subtle in Froguloids, but there are enough differences to tell one gender from another.  Froguloids require a larger amount of food - especially protein - and moisture than humans, though they can usually exist in the same environments.

Froguloids were originally created by humans as an experiment in uplifting.  It was thought that the process would be fairly easy since the anatomy - as opposed to the physiology - of a frog is not that dissimilar from a human.  Froguloids have long been employed by Imperial scientists in order to jump start the terraforming process on prospective planets.  It was thought that their fast metabolism as well as their propensity for mutation would help scientists identify potential atmospheric hazards undetectable by the Imperium's equipment.  This history has made Froglings somewhat paranoid, though not enough to damage their relationship with other species.

Froguloids now have their own systems and colonies, with a capital known as Frogulon.  They are still technically part of the Terran Imperium, but they enjoy a great deal of autonomy.  Their social structures are more or less the same as human society except as noted below.  There is also a splinter state known as the Bullywug Star Empire, but this is fairly small and acts more as a base for piracy than an actual state.

Froguloids are fairly gregarious and adventurous, though they have a habit of distrusting humans.  They make excellent traders, scientists, and explorers, a fact that both humans and Froguloids take credit for.  

They enjoy diversions of all sorts, but often tire of things very quickly.  Forguloids often become frustrated with humans, whom they accuse of being "slow." They are also known for their propensity for drink and mind altering substances, though these are usually very strong by human standards to account for the differences in Froguloid biology.

Froguloid society largely resembles its human counter part, including both noble titles and dress; however, they possess strongly entrenched "houses," or large family units, that act as the major political players on both Frogulon and in the Bullywug Star Empire.

Froguloids as Player Characters
1d6 Strength, 3d6 Dexterity, +2 DN to Initiative, double life support costs, can survive underwater 10x as long as human characters, can enter the Scout, Merchant, and Other careers as well as any career in Citizens of the Imperium


This might seem a bit out of place in a galaxy of terror, but I tend to mix comedy and horror rather uncomfortably in anything I run.  Plus I just like frog people.

Friday, April 27, 2012

No One Can Hear You Scream

I'm a big fan of horror, both in fiction and in gaming.  When I was growing up in the mid to late 90s, there was quite a bit of horror fiction aimed at children such as Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and Eerie Indiana, and I think those books and shows had a great impact on me.  Today I still watch more horror movies than I do sci fi and fantasy ones, and the fantasy authors I prefer tend to be the ones that cleave closer to horror such as Clark Ashton Smith.  

When I run fantasy RPGs, I tend to weave in a lot of horror elements.  This should be obvious to anyone who knows about my Dark Country setting, but it's also true of my other ideas. Even my recent musings on campaign set during the Genpei War had a large number of horror elements. So why not do that with Terran Space?  Alien is one of the greatest horror movies of all time and it's pretty damn close to Traveller.  Plus, Clark Ashton Smith wrote some sci fi stories as well.

While it's unlikely I'll have much time to work on it soon, when I do begin working on Terran Space again I'll definitely be adding more horrific things to my little sandbox.  Some might wonder why I'd use Traveller for such a game, and I played in a pretty rad space horror game using Call of Cthulhu with Zak S. as the keeper.  However, I think I'll be sticking to Traveller for a number of reasons.  The most important one is that I like the system.  In my opinion it has the best character generation of any RPG I've played.  

The fact that I like it is really enough to make me run it, but it isn't the only reason.  If I'm using Traveller, the players will be less likely to expect the horrific elements and therefore be more surprised - and possibly frightened - when they do appear.*  I'm not talking about a complete bait and switch here, the game would still essentially be about the same things Traveller is always about.  I'll just be adding some elements of horror in order to make the setting more uniquely mine.  This can easily be done by making the hooks that patrons give and the encounters had during space adventures have a distinctly sinister character.

The way I see it, there would be three sources of horror in Terran Space: the Precursors, Human/Alien Action, and Nature itself.  The Precursors, whose exact nature I'll probably attempt to leave as vague as possible for as long as possible, are built in to the assumed setting of Traveller.  It's easy enough to give them   horrific implications.  They could have been immensely powerful, quasi-Lovecraftian entities that ruled both the stars and the Earth itself before humankind's ascent.  And even they were destroyed by something.  What could have caused a galaxy-wide extinction event?  Something that will terrorize the PCs, that's what.

Humans can also be horrifying.  The technologies wielded by an inter-stellar empire are far and away more advanced than our own, and those technologies can be applied to evil ends as well as good.  Imagine the sort of Frankenstein-like horrors one could create with gene splicing.  I can easily picture the PCs boarding a lab ship only to discover that its inhabitants have become creatures straight out of a zombie movie.  Of course, intelligent aliens could also engage in these same sick practices or be victimized by the same engineered viruses.  

The last option is of course Nature.  By this I mean something like Alien where the terror comes from a biological organism stalking it's prey, which is of course the PCs.  It doesn't have to be a quasi-immortal space bug.  It could also be a space-virus, a patch of cosmic radiation, a time loop in space, or any number of Star Trek-like scenarios.  

When I ran the few sessions of Traveller on Skype about a year ago, one of the most memorable moments was probably the one that comes closest to what I'm talking about.  The PCs misjumped into an area of empty space.  For a whole parsec there was nothing at which they could refuel, and thus they were essentially stranded and doomed to die a horrible death.  They desperately scanned for anything that might help them, and they found what appeared to be a derelict ship.  They managed to get close enough to to get on board, and so they did.  The away team found that all life support systems had failed, and also found a number of frozen corpses floating in the weightless vacuum that existed in the interior of the ship.  The ship was a large cargo hauler, and it had quite a bit of fuel left over so they couldn't figure out what had killed them.  This seemed to genuinely creep the players out.

They eventually decided that the ship's jump bubble must have "popped" and that had caused them to become stranded in this empty parsec.  But what if that isn't what happened?  What if it was something that could still get the characters while they're siphoning fuel out of the broken down vessel?  That's the kind of thing I want to do with Terran Space.

*Well I guess now they won't be since I posted this on my blog, but whatever.