Thursday, 9 March 2017

Beau Geste's Planet?

Another world from the Aquila Sector, and another place liable to blow up in visiting PCs faces…


034 Aquila B 984648 9 Agricultural, Garden, Rich

Alzarha is a large, hot world, baking under a class F3 star. The equatorial region is stupidly hot and an uninhabitable desert, but the northern and southern sub arctic zones have liquid water seas and pleasant climates comparable to the tropics towards the equator, up to a mediterranean climate nearer the poles. The atmosphere is rich in oxygen and in some areas near these ocean basins saturated with water, while most of the planet is drier than the Atacama Desert. The only problem is the high gravity, 1.25Gs, which reduces the lifespan of colonists due to strain on the cardiovascular system.

They're huge!

The ecosystem is well developed with major phyla of large exoskeletoned and segmented worms, long homeothermic furred peripatus-like creatures with efficient lungs and a plethora of diurnal fliers from the size of hummingbirds up to an albatross, and a minor phylum of quasi molluscs with complex internal calcareous shells with joints and sometimes limbs and an outer covering of leathery skin studded with scutes. The fundamental biochemistry is however incompatible with Earths and there have been extensive introductions from earth from camels, cattle and sheeps to basic crops and supporting soil microbiota through to fish. This has been very successful in the northern half of the northern maritime region, while the southern basin remains almost entirely indigenous.

The population is 7.2 million split between four colonies - The largest is the Neo-Tuareg Popular Republic, with 4 million, the Free Confederation of Archaeo-Tuareg with 1.6 million, an Indian colony, New Jaipur with 1.2 million and a European corporate colony, Krona Agritech, with 0.4 million.

The Tuareg originally arrived as part of a joint West African Union colonising effort along with Nigerians, Malinese, Ghanains, Ivorians etc. which fell apart as the WAU fell apart in the 22nd century due to dissatisfaction of the smaller states with Nigerian dominance. The colony looked doomed to fail and most of the population were evacuated, but the small Tuareg element had little to look forward to back home but continuing to be a scattered and declining minority with no nation state to call their own, so they stubbornly stayed on, attempting to establish a viable form of their traditional nomadic lifestyle. They were helped by a Malinese millionaire who had got rich by building solar power farms in the deep Sahara who managed to convince UN environmental agencies to transplant endangered species from the Sahel to Alzarha to preserve them.

The Tuareg adopted him as a constitutional monarch over a parliamentary democracy, and mostly settled down to arable farming, but unfortunately this state didn’t last. It was undermined by populist and militarist demagogues stoking up fears about the New Jaipur colony. India is a rich country with a vast population and the prospect of them setting up down the coast and ‘pouring out of the skies’ was easy to paint them as a potential threat. This resulted in a civil war and the defeated royalists/democrats joined the ‘Archaeo-Tuareg’, the group of ultra-romantic nomadic nutters who had stayed out in desert fringes.

While the Neo-Tuareg Popular Republic goes through the usual trials of a one party police state, the Archaeo-Tuareg have for the last fifty years tried to make desert nomadism viable, with water condenser stations out in the desert creating swathes of semi-permanent grassland for sheep herding, camels and huge native peritapods used alongside solar powered mobile homes, desert fortresses as bunkers and internet server farms buried under the sands. Their once huge fields of solar panels have long since been bombed to smithereens, but they found an alternative power source - uranium. This is a damned useful export since the modern world has little use for milk and sheep’s wool, their only other major commodities. Getting hold of it does involve expeditions into the most hellish tracts of desert though, which is not for the faint hearted and under equipped.

The Archaeo-Tuareg internet is a bustle of political argument paradoxically mostly conducted in Welsh to confuse the Neo’s military who are still trying to wipe out their opposition. For their part the Archaeo’s take whatever secret military aid New Jaipur can give them and raid the edges of the Neo colony for food and manufactured goods.

Meanwhile New Jaipur expands its fish farms as far across the Nagara Sea as it dares, while dealing with dissent of it’s own. The colony is dominated by a few large corporations who have brought in a lot of indentured labour from back home and tensions between the corporate elite and their workers is mounting. The Archaeos live a tough life to be sure, but the sight of their freewheeling convoys coming to the starport to trade reminds them what freedom can look like.

For their part the most radical factions of the Archaeos are all for biting the hand that feeds them and are supporting the nascent New Jaipur trade unions hoping that a future socialist or social democrat state will definitively oust the military buffoons in control of the NTPR rather than just use them as proxies in a low level campaign of containment as has happened so far. 

But the most traditionalist are all for buying indentured labour contracts and reviving the ancient Tuareg tradition of slave ownership. Archaeo-Tuaregs of this stripe are drifting into Indian corporate employment as police and ‘security forces’, and, it is rumoured, are using Neo captives and New Jaipur convicts in uranium mining operations.

Krona Agritech have chosen a spot in the southern hemisphere and are glad to be well away from all this potential chaos. The southern basin has not had the same kind of extensive seeding with Earthly species though and the native beasties are just that bit bigger and more vicious down here, and the jungles more impenetrable. They have had tensions with the NTPR - Krona has put up an extensive network of geosats that could theoretically enable the NTPR army to monitor the Archaeos and bomb them to bits but Krona refuse to get involved. The NTPR are now accusing Krona of allowing the network to be used by the Archaeos to supplement their ground-station based internet, while Krona insists that if it happened it must be hackers - and are investigating what their new IT hires from the anarcho-syndicalist colony of Neuland on Epsilon have actually been up to.

An EU star navy base is being set up and their currently class D starport extended; the NTPR does have some old but still potent Nigerian frigates, and of course the NTPR has a small uranium mine of its own and possibly a secret processing plant. The Indian Navy are already here showing off one of their new ‘Force Projection Carriers’, a combined air superiority and dropship assault vessel, which has in turn made the Chinese base at Shingdu a couple of parsecs away start practising rapid deployment drills and send a military advisor to the NTPR, which supplies a good part of their food.

Radioactives at New Jaipur have a Purchase DM of +2, while weapons of any kind have a Sale DM of +2 anywhere on the planet except the Krona Agritech base.

Any, all or none of the following may be true...

  • The current titular Queen of the Tuareg lives in exile on Aquila. Her parents fled Alzarha after the Neo revolution with just a few thousand credits and she and her half-English family live relatively modestly in a suburb of New Dorchester. Even so President-General Amestida Takoba wants them definitively removed from the picture and may finance an assassination. On the other hand Prince Francis ag-Norman, currently an engineering student at the University of Fargen, might be persuaded to come and take up the crown, though many of his supposed subjects are a bit lukewarm about a restoration and know next to nothing about him other than his love of football. A faction of Archaeos are dispatching a delegation and looking for a PR and social media team to build him up into a revolutionary figurehead, or at least get him holographed riding a camel and wearing a blue headscarf.
  • What this place needs is more guns! Ok, there’s embargos and regulations galore to be circumvented and/or ignored, but if there wasn’t a risk there wouldn’t be a profit would there? There’s plenty of reconditioned TL9-10 gear to be picked up on Orpheus after their nasty little war against the Asgardian Nazis (just file off the swastikas), or maybe some latest model US Gauss Rifles might fall off the back of a shuttle at Fort Clinton in the United Aquilan States. Whatever, the NTPR frigates are allegedly slow as space-sloths with mega-corns and the INSS Sindhurashtra is supposedly all about ground and atmospheric attack not orbital interdiction; as long as you stay ahead of their nuclear torpedoes and depleted uranium mass drivers you’ll be alright…
  • The Tuareg love their music and despite the difficulties the Archaeos still hold rock festivals in the midst of their hard-pan uranium tainted desert whenever they can get away with it. And AlphaGeekOmicron 1234, biggest rock star in the sector, is going to play! As it turns out he sends a computerised ‘Beta Geek’ - he’s into the revolutionary chic and all that but he ain’t daft - much to the disappointment of the heavily armed fans and the detachment of NTPR air cavalry sent out to break it up with maximum prejudice and blow the decadent Scottish cyborg to kingdom come as an example to whoever gives a shit about that sort of thing.
  • The French are coming! Some historical ignoramus back in Brussels on Earth has decided to send the French Légion Étrangère as part of the EU military build up to protect the Krona colony from any upcoming hostilities, forgetting a few of the hoary units notable campaigns in the Sahara in the late 19th century… the 24th century descendants of those they clobbered and colonised most certainly haven’t and Neo- and Archaeo-Tuareg alike are wondering if the Euro-dweebs at the south pole haven’t got something more ambitious in mind than mere self-defence.
  • The NTPR have finally got themselves a Welsh propagandist. Translating the pseudo Celtic gibberish spouted by the Archaeo rebel radio stations wasn’t that hard with modern linguistic computers, but they have had a hard time finding a sufficiently fluent speaker to spread disinformation back into their system. Edward Williams (Jones the Fib to his associates) lately of Swansea and MI5 on Earth, is of sufficient moral flexibility to work with a military junta, and he needs code-monkeys to hack into some Archaeo base stations and maybe the Krona satellite network. Might need some physical ground and space work, the Archaeos certainly have had help from the tech-mad anarchist Neulanders and digital security is as tight as it gets.
  • The cunning bastards at Mahaji Biomass have had their labs in New Jaipur working on something big - they have been messing with the local wildlife for years trying to GM Alzahra/Earth hybrid beasties for the farms, but have abandoned that in favour of making really, really big local millipede-oids fifty plus meters long to tunnel into the NTPR and cause mayhem ahead of a land invasion by joint Indian and Archaeo forces. For their part the NTPR have had agents seeding the New Jaipur fish farms with Chinese made viruses that implant special hormone-triggered genes that will turn all those shrimp and mullet into rabid killers with the addition of a little cat pee. Not to mention the nuclear cyber sharks (shh, DON’T mention that!).
  • The Krona Agritech colony has a hell of a lot of New Man residents and has a pretty impressive population for a place that was only set up thirty years ago. The answer is simple - they have been secretly cloning them, the New Men being designed for that kind of rough treatment. The Krona team have even been modifying their ‘News’, darkening their complexions and trying to adapt them from a low-g to a high-g subspecies, contravening just about every convention on human genetic modification going. The Krona geosat system is actually there to monitor the progress of some experimental New-New-Man test colonies they have set up out in the desert, people truly adapted to Alzarha’s harsh environment and eating it’s indigestible beasties, better than these silly Archaeo-Tuareg wannabes poncing about on imported camels then retiring to air conditioned camper vans when it gets a bit warm. Of course when the EU military team gets up to strength there is every chance they will find out what has been going on and the Krona management are bricking it. They might even stage a fake military confrontation with the NTPR or Archaeos to encourage the Légion Étrangère fuckwits out into the northern deserts well away from anything sensitive. Well they are coming 30+ light years from home, be a shame not have an actual war for them when they get here.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A Lemon Planet

Earth-like planets are just not that common in Known Space. There’s some that are about the same size and some of those are about the right temperature and some of those have a decent atmosphere and some water. But there are a hell of a lot more crappy lumps of rock and ice and great boluses of noxious gas, but if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Humans are an inventive lot, and any system has some clod of matter they can make use of.


Aquila 160 D 220 220 B Desert, Low Population, Poor

An ice cave in the Torre Glacier on Earth - Tsaitsyn's are mostly pitch black
(By Andrew Waddington)

Tsaritsyn/Yokoana is a tiny iceball of a world, dry and cold, orbiting a gas giant which in turn distantly orbits a class K9 star.

It has an atmosphere though, and it has oxygen, making it a far better prospect for an outpost than any of the similar bits of icy detritus in the system. The thick dirty ice covering of Tsaritsyn is porous, almost a sponge or foam in places, with tendrils and spicules of ice covering almost all of its surface, intermixed with loose lumps of ice and snow. 

There is a mountain range of sorts, a place where water has erupted from somewhere below and frozen into a solid but extensively cracked glacier. Landing a starship anywhere but on this glacier is a risky proposition, you have to search long and hard with ground penetrating radar to find any area of ice with sufficient strength to support its weight, even with the low gravity, and even then tidal forces may shift and crack the ice under your vessel as the moon slowly rotates.

The ice layer is around 30km deep, riddled with pockets of gas and extensive complex cave systems, millions of miles of them. As you go deeper the ice has a greater proportion of hydrocarbons and even pools and rivers of semi-liquid oily sludge can be found due to natural anti-freeze, and it harbours ever great amounts of silicate dust until it becomes solid rock. Somewhere deep inside the planet is a heat source, presumably a molten nickel-iron core, though it seems too small to have such a thing.

There is an ecosystem down here. The organisms are not cellular, they are almost crystalline nodes of informational molecules directing the general smear of hydrocarbon, silanes and boranes around them into a metabolism reliant on chemo and thermo synthesis for energy. It is a sluggish and half hearted affair, visible as brownish coloured ice and rainbow films of oil, barely living at all, but it does produce a tiny bit of oxygen and methane to create an actual atmosphere.

The beasties in question?
(From a paper by MB Uloth et al in PloS One on an earthly bacterium that uses crystals)

The two colonies are both corporate; the Rosneft Interstellar Mining corporation and a firm from Aquila's Japanese-speaking Onika Prefecture, Hokada Nanochemical. Both colonies are tiny, 87 in the Rosnef base, 73 in the Hokada. They lie a hundred kilometers apart at either end of the Broken Hills glacier.

The Rosneft base - Tsaritsyn - is dedicated to finding a usable reservoir of exotic petrochemcials. Surveying teams trek across the surface and through the caves, a risky business aided by specially made tunnelling machines and drones, but deposits are mostly too small to justify the expense of pumping them out. Hokada use their facility as a manufacturing base far from the restrictive environmental regulations back home and import most of their feedstock or skim it from the local gas giants. The chemical waste they pour into their caverns is having an effect on the local slime, mainly killing it outright, but some varieties seem to be adapting.

The two settlements are in a low level war, with frequent legal arguments over exploitation rights to the planet. There is sabotage of Hokada plant and the Rosneft crew accuse Hokada of deliberately killing off their exploration crews by triggering cave ins. The two settlements have separate landing fields and refuse to have anything to do with each other. The Hokada even have a different name for the world - Yokoana - though since the Russians were there first and there are more of them their name is more frequently on the star charts. Hokada are trying to persuade the various state authorities on Aquila to start an embargo against Rosneft, but though the Russians are light years away no one wants to rile them.

For most travellers Tsaritsyn/Yokoana is a ‘flyover’ planet, you might go into a parking orbit over the Hokada base and have their shuttle bring you up some overpriced unrefined fuel (130Cr/ton), but there is no reason to stop, not even a hotel.

Any, all or none of the following may be true...

  • The Hokada staff have been infiltrated by environmentalists from Aquila. The planet’s ecosystem may be gunge with a slight pretense at organisation but in the opinion of the Fronte Naturelle it has a right to live with minimal disturbance from humankind. Hokada could have sited their plant on any ball of rock, there’s plenty in the Aquila system itself, there is no reason be poisoning these bugs, they should go, and those Rosneft wallies as well.
  • This planet is just plain weird, it shouldn’t have these caves. Planetologist David Mkumba reckons it looks like the place was boiled and then quickly refrozen. The gas giant below is a big one, nearly a brown dwarf, and there is an outside chance that it, or the primary star, once spawned a coronal mass ejection that caused the mass meltdown. When will the next be?
  • What this place needs is some terraforming. The Rosneft crew have a plan. The Broken Hills Glacier lies over what looks like the only actual geological fault in the rocky core below, they reckon that it was a volcanic eruption down there long, long ago that created the glacier. They are bringing in a really big drill and are going down to the planet’s mantle to trigger another one, melt a whole shedload more of the ice, bring some of the atmosphere down below out to the surface, maybe keep it going permanently for geothermal power and to create a liquid water sea. Cracking open a planet? What could go wrong?
  • You know these life forms are really clever, they manage to extract and concentrate the oil and minerals from solid dirty ice really well. And they are crystalline, or almost so, using various phases of solid water ice to create tiny architectures and self-replicating patterns, kind of like recent experiments in nano-technology. You could export these to other such moons - they are a very common type - and leave them for a million years of so and just come back and slurp up the hydrocarbon. Rosneft are working on a way to speed up the process, using nanotech methods to speed up the existing bugs, and/or the secret of the Hokada base is that they have concluded they are in fact nano-tech left by an alien race, have projected what kind of monstrosity the wee fuckers are trying to turn this ice ball into and are trying to kill them off.
  • Life evolves slowly on a planet this cold and with this little solar input, it’s been 7 billion years and the best they it has come up with is a half assed replicator based on fancy ice and clay crystals - not even bloody membranes and the place is full of oil! The human bases are injecting a lot of heat, complex organics and DNA (well the shithouse has got to have a pipe that comes out somewhere) and a whole bunch of other crud including radionulceides and it is making up for lost time. Slimes are quietly dissolving the great concrete and steel slabs the bases are built on, the bodies of those poor swine buried in cave ins are being digested and their biomolecules repurposed; it’s going to bloody eat us!
  • It’s all one cell, one organism, and it is intelligent. It’s thought processes are slow - the speed of diffusing chemicals - but those nodes communicate amongst themselves and there are billions of them. It doesn’t know what to think about the peculiar changes to its environment yet, but it has recognised that there are other organisms than itself and may yet try and communicate. How? Structures in ice? Words strung from chains of carbon, boron and silicon with heterocyclic rings as letters? Will the squabbling humans recognise what they are sitting on before killing it entirely?

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Red School of Masks

Wearing masks is a common enough feature of worship all across Glorantha. Priests and initiates don masks and costumes and re-enact the old legends of the gods for the edification of worshippers all the time. In the Lunar Empire the mask has assumed a special religious significance, with various aspects of the Red Goddess being referred to as 'masks' and the various occupants of the Imperial Throne as 'masks' of the one true Red Emperor, whose soul lies behind all of them.

Most masks used in rites to depict gods and their legendary foes have a standard(ish) format and many are old, part of the ritual equipment of the temples and tribes, and if a new one needs to be made it is closely modelled on the old.

The following is partly drawn from the Tales Of the Reaching Moon #15 article on Moonbroth by Mick Brooke and Malcolm Serabian.

The Red School of Masks based in Moonbroth in Prax treat the idea of masks differently. They are a sect made up up of a motley crew of native and Lunar shamen, Lunar mystics and the 'moon-struck', lunatics from all backgrounds and walks of life who have been called by the red light of the moon. Non-members tend to call them 'Loonies'.

They all wear masks, but not the conventional standardised types used by most religions but their own original creations based on their own peculiar visions.

To become a member one must first have a vision. Cultists achieve this in various ways, drugs, reckless shamanic delving into the spirit world, fasting, inhaling the peculiar fumes in the volcanic caves around Moonbroth and dancing oneself into an exhausted trance is popular. The Red School is pretty anarchic and any method will do.

The key text of the cult is the Ode of the Wandering Moon, allegedly written by the Red Goddess herself, which described her descent into Hell and what she saw and did there. It is written in extremely obscure and symbolic language and interpretations of it vary widely. It is not considered part of the 'Rufus Scripts', the official liturgy of the Lunar Way, penned by Takenegi, the first Red Emperor, and most Lunar scholars consider it a blatant fraud.

The ideal is to follow the path of Teelo Estara into the underworld, achieve illumination and re-emerge, as Teelo Imara did, as a living god. But so far no one has actually done so, but they have emerged with a vision of the god they are destined to be, if not in this lifetime, then in another future one, and these are the masks the members of the School wear.

They take many forms. Praxian shamen tend to come out with some 'Lunarised' form of their previous tribal beast or one of the Great Spirits of Prax, Jakaleel and other Lunar shamen with strange demons and beasts found only on the moon, the various mystics and madmen with almost any damned thing.

The cult mask colours are usually black, red and white and they can be anything from a simple piece of leather up to a baroque confection of wood, metal, horn and glass. All will detect as being magical and all are supposed to give some hint of the god-like powers the user will one day command, but very few do anything practical. Members may make multiple versions of their mask, refining their vision, and take multiple trips into the Otherworlds, seeking to strengthen their potential god-hood.

The Red School of Masks

Lay Member
The School will take absolutely anyone, their dedication to the principle of Inclusion is impeccable. Whether a lay members previous cult or tribe takes kindly to their dabbling in a wierdo cult of dubious provenance is another matter, even many Lunar cults regard the Red School as dangerously heretical and outright bonkers.

Being a lay member is easy, hang out with the cult and help with the many experimental rituals, if you have not had a vision yet your turn will come. The main cult site is the ramshackle Temple of the Wandering Moon at Moonbroth, a collection of Praxian lodges and wattle and daub enclosures roofed with a mixture of skins and thatch to create a warren of small rooms. This spreads into an even more ramshackle camp site where dozens of Loonies jabber, shriek, dance, sleep, fornicate and eat in between altering their consciousness and importuning passing travellers for alms.

Can you spare a moment to talk about the MOON?

Initiate – Masked One
To become a Masked One, you must have a vision. Devise a method for breaking through into an Otherworld, the more outlandish the better. The basic roll ought to be POW plus two other characteristics, which might be POW again (depends on method – straight shamanic trance might be POWx3, massive doses of Hazia or other drug might be POWx2+CON, lying in a fire ant nest under the blazing sun with no food or water might be POW+CONx2, dancing frantically POW+CON+CHA etc.) Failure at this point results in loss of one point of a stat.

This is followed by a minor heroquest which will challenge 2d3+1 skills or stats. This may be entirely spiritual and take place in a trance, or be partly or wholly physical in which the candidate wanders around the desert, cave, city streets etc. being assailed by obstacles and enemies. The participant must also roll for Illumination, and if they get a critical success in any roll they permanently gain +1% to their chance.

Failed rolls:
If ALL rolls are failed the person becomes insane for 21-POW months, plus the effect as below.

Seven fails – gain a (D6) 1-3 Chaos Feature, 4-6 Anti-Chaos feature. The Red School are fine with chaotic and insane members, sadly the rest of the world is not so 'Inclusive'. Roll vs POW x 5% or become a (D10) 1-2 Broo, 3-5 Ogre, 6 Were-creature, 7 Gorp, 8 Strix (a kind of Lunar Harpy), 9 A hive of chaotic wasps, 10 Something else entirely.

Six fails – Attacked by a Moon-spirit with an eye to possession. The person is deemed to have been cursed by the moon and even if they succeeded a roll they are thrown out of the cult and have until the next full moon to get away or be slain. All chances of Illumination reset to 0%. If possessed by a moon-spirit they become a very odd NPC with mental health issues.

Five fails – Memory loss. Lose 5% or one point in all the skills or stats challenged. Cannot recall most of the vision. Lose 21-POW points of intelligence, regained at one per day, if INT becomes zero remain catatonic until it gets back into positive points.

Four fails – Lose 1 permanent POW or one runespell or one spirit becomes unbound and wanders off into the 23 Delayed Realm or lose one sorcery spell. Lose 21-POW points of intelligence, regained at one per day, if INT becomes zero remain catatonic until it gets back into positive points.

Three fails – Suffer a geas, which if broken results in attack by a moon-spirit.

Two fails – Infected by Brain Fever, roll for severity as usual, may be cured as normal.

One fail – No effect.

Successful rolls:
Seven successes – While wearing your mask you increase in stats by 1d6 points, no more than 3 in any one stat. This may include SIZ – the person physically grows towards god-like stature when wearing the mask. POW points may also be sacrificed for a re-useable Rune spell that can only be cast while wearing the mask, including any cult special from any Lunar cult whether a member of not. Gain 1d6% towards your chance of Illumination.

Six successes – The mask acts as a power crystal of the users choice, but half the strength of the crystal. May only be used while wearing the mask.

Five successes – The mask acts as a battle magic matrix for any spell up to 2d2 points. Any spell may be chosen, the caster does not have to know it already, and cult special spells may (at the GMs discretion) be chosen.

Four successes – Mask adds +1d3x5% to a non-combat skill, but carries a geas which only affects person while wearing the mask.

Three successes – Mask adds 5% to one non-combat skill. If fails outnumber successes Mask detects as magical, but does nothing.

Two successes – Mask detects as magic, but does nothing. If fails outnumber successes, no mask vision is gained and person remains a lay member.

One success – No effect.

Masks add 1 point of head armour, and may be made so as to give additional protection if money is spent on their creation. May not be worn with a closed or full helmet. All add +1 CHA when dealing with fellow members of the Red School of Masks, the six success version gives +2 CHA, the seven success gives +3 CHA.

The vision quest may be tried again to get a better mask, but each vision is different and will challenge different skills. A person may only have one mask at a time.

As yet there are no rune priests or rune lords specifically of the Red School of Masks, and it is not known whether such a position is even possible. You would in effect be the priest or lord of your own personal deity who happens to be yourself. There are supposedly members who have undertaken difficult quests in the Otherworlds to enhance the powers of their Masks, and members who have died and been reborn with the magic powers of their mask as innate special abilities, but members are vague as to who they actually are.

There are priests of other cults who have undertaken the mask quest and become initiates and they have senior positions in the Temple of the Wandering Moon for what it is worth, since trying to organise the Loonies is like juggling cats in a room full of rocking chairs. Most notable are:

  • Mama Jaga, a Jakaleel Witch, who has some clout with fellow Jakaleel cultists within the school as she is their Coven-Mistress. She sees the School as a good way of increasing the numerical strength of her coven, though the quality of the new recruits often leaves much to be desired.
Mama Jaga's Mask

  • Yoros the Quiet, a minor sorcerer of the Irin School who has been making a bit of a name for himself fighting the nastier manifestations of Chaos in Pavis County with his band of somewhat more sober and sensible Loonies, and thus doing a lot to improve the reputation of the cult and Lunars in general with the Sartarite population. Mama Yaga hates him, a crusading sorcerous prig who thinks he's a tough guy because he beats up on a few snivelling broo. Yoros wants to find and slay Bleb the Talking Filth (see below) but his little band wouldn't make it a mile into the Chaos Marsh, he needs an army.
  • Zanzar Wahanzar the Spinning Man – a proper shaman of Waha who devotes himself to continual dancing and who knows the rites of many Praxian great spirits. Spouts blood curdling prophecies at anyone who will listen and repeatedly goes on vision quests to learn more. Other Praxian shamen respect him as an undoubted master of their craft, but few are keen on following his example and trying to tame the spirits of the moon as they have obviously driven him nuts. Too involved in his own efforts to divine the future to be an actual leader of the Loonies, though he puts on some wicked dance, drum and drug shindigs that have helped plenty of lay members have visions to find their own mask.
The Mask of Bleb

  • Bleb the Talking Filth – Bleb was a missionary priest of Etyries called Arikanthus who joined the Loonies as a way of understanding the shamanic mindset and whose first vision quest went badly wrong and turned him into a Gorp. He made it on his second try and now supposedly lives in the Chaos Marshes south of the Block, an amorphous acidic blob who created his own mask by etching a slab of bronze into beautiful androgynous human face stained with multicoloured corrosion. He is utterly mad in all kinds of interesting ways and his broo followers bring captured humans to him to be harangued in unknowable divine languages mixed with Tradetalk expletives, salacious gossip and really obscure and dark prophecies. A couple of Loonies at Moonbroth have met him and bear the physical and mental scars, lucky that Bleb decided to let them loose to spread his disjointed words rather than let his followers fuck and eat them.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Charelle, the Happy Planet

Been trying to fill in a few of the gaps in the Aquila Sector for my Known Space homebrew Traveller setting. 


Aquila 071 B 966 517 6 Agricultural, Garden, Non-Industrial

Charelle is a pleasant world, warm and temperate, with a thriving native ecosystem and a growing population. Unfortunately local law stipulates that no-one may leave the starport and no inhabitant may leave the planet without government permission.

Charelle might be called a psychiatric dictatorship. The founders, Robert and Cynthia Charelle, were psychiatrists from the USA on Earth who migrated to Aquila and gathered a cult-like following for their unconventional theories on mental health, moving on to found the colony of Charelle around eighty years ago. To become a colonist one must undergo a battery of psychometric tests and a month long stay in their assessment centre and sign an impressive wad of legal documents committing them to stay on the planet for at least ten years.

For PCs determined to get in the base pass roll is 12+

Add all stat modifiers (the Charellites say their tests are purely psychological, but they currently havent got the resources to look after the potentially unhealthy)
+1 per level of skill in Diplomacy, Carouse and Jack of all Trades (they like sociability and self-reliance),
-2 per level of skill in Deception (they really are good at spotting wrong'uns),
+2 per level in Social Science (Psychology) (the tests are supposed to be unbiased, but if you have a basic knowledge of psychology you will know what answers they are looking for),
+2 if a family member is already a settler,
+2 if aged under 30, +1 if under 40. 

+1 if named Robert or Cynthia
+2 if named David or Davinia
+1 if member of a religion
-3 if formerly worked in Marketing or Human Resources
Automatic acceptance if former Scientologist

Those with any cybernetic or biological enhancement, including New Men and Hobbits, are automatically barred, and those with a criminal record have -1 to -10 penalty depending on severity of the crime.

The tests are, it is claimed, to measure sociability, community-mindedness, intelligence, honesty and integrity. They have a nice colony here, a utopia of specially chosen kind and considerate people, they don't want any flies in their ointment. Once beyond the confines of the starport, it is indeed pleasant. A bit primitive maybe - information technology is restricted to administrators only, communication is by wired telephone, transport is by electric light railway and the odd internal combustion truck, entertainment is team sports, barn dances and a two hour per night radio broadcast and electricity is unfortunately rationed until they can get the hydroelectric dam project sorted. It is all rather reminiscent of the 1950's as seen by Norman Rockwell, with a bit of idealised Soviet collective farm as seen in a Pravda article.

Everyone sees a psychiatrist once a week for a private session and council meetings are essentially group therapy. Freedom of religion is respected up to a point - there are Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples etc. but all the clergy are trained psychiatrists and paid by the state. The state keeps extensive records of sessions and permission to vote is only allowed to those who, in their opinion, have shown good judgement and intelligence, and even then the Clinical Council, the ultimate authority on the planet, is made up of psychiatrists selected on merit by their peers.

The selection process weeds out most potential malcontents, but those having difficulty fitting in are offered alternative jobs and a move of settlement based on their psychometric test results. There is a prison out in the woods, but it is a pretty mild place, more a therapeutic community where inmates can work out their issues or even set up a cabin alone in the wilds to meditate upon their problems.

If none of this works inside the ten year minimum stay then the person is asked to leave, passage is booked on a passing merchant vessel and they are let go, but in the last decade only three people have left in this way. The Charellites are obviously pretty good at persuading people to conform.

People with a long track record of loyalty and stability can be given permission to work in the starport (situated on an island) and deal with the selfish, awkward and frankly pretty barmy outsiders. It is not an assignment most Charellites relish, but someone has to do it. They may also be given a leave of absence to go to another planet on business - the Charelle Institute still has branch offices in the colonies of Aquila which need staffing.

For a supposedly peace loving people the Charellites can be pretty militaristic. Everyone over 18 has mandatory militia training, and 1 in 20 of the 60,000 inhabitants is in the security service. Every settlement has an armoury where citizens can be issued with TL5 rifles and pistols if the need arises, and shotgun licences are easy to obtain for those on frontier farms where wild animals may roam onto their property. Target shooting is a popular sport, though actively hunting the local wildlife is discouraged. The security services have TL7 assault rifles and TL8 stunclubs, have some rather rickety APCs and operate a few TL9 system defence boats and armed shuttles.

The greatest fear of the Charellites is that another colony will be set up on their beautiful and mostly empty planet and 'neurotic' outsiders will ruin the utopia they have tried to create. And it certainly is an enticing looking planet, a true garden world with fertile soils and a wide diversity of quasi-reptilian and crustacean fauna. The authorities know that a determined settlement effort by a well armed outside force would blow their low tech militia away and are seeking a treaty with the Aquilan League of Nations to defend them in return for land grants and an understanding that no one is to settle within the vast tracts they have claimed for themselves to expand into.

Adventure Hooks

Rumours about what the Charellites are really up to and what the colony is really about abound. Any, all or none of the following may be true-

  1. The Charellites do not 'own' the planet. There is no way a bunch of cultish kooks could afford to buy the sole exploitation rights to a planet this large and desirable. If you trace back through the web of front companies and trusts the place is in fact owned by the US government and a consortium of American and Swiss pharmaceutical firms. Cynthia Charelle worked in a lab for Jewell GmbH on psychotropic drugs, and though the Charellite shrinks claim to use no more than the odd sedative or mild anti-depressant they are in fact drugging the whole population up to their eyeballs in a nefarious chemo-control scheme the US government is intending to roll out back home. Do not drink anything in that fancy starport of theirs, bring your own water and beer.
  2. It's psionics dummy! Bob Charelle investigated the claims of those Psionic Institute frauds back when he was a lecturer in Psychology and Sociology at Le Grand Ecole Polytechnique d'Aquila, and while the official report said they were talking bollocks, Bob saw they were onto something. The Charelle Institute is running a long term breeding/indoctrination programme to create real actual psychics! Some of those psychiatrists can really, genuinely read your mind! Think only happy thoughts while visiting, or the fuckers will take you that camp in the woods and wipe your mind.
  3. Those Charellites seem such nice folks, cheerful, straight talking and honest to a fault, but they have some dark, dark secrets. They are paranoid. They have this huge planet they only occupy a few dozen square miles of, yet I hear they refused to let a bunch of refugees from the Orphean War in to set up a camp in a spot well out of their way, other side of the planet even. The Orpheans landed anyway and over the next few weeks the Charellites shot down their ship and hunted them down.
  4. The Chinese are going to rub them out sooner or later. The planet isn't theirs, the original survey was by a Chinese State Planetological expedition and the Charellites are mere squatters. The Chinese are overstretched as it is and currently the farthest colony they are seriously investing in is on St Anne which has more easily exploitable minerals. But one shipload of marines and these wallies are toast, and it will come.
  5. The Clinical Council has gone the same way as all self-perpetuating oligarchies, with internal factionalism, corruption and official ideology a mere stick to beat each other with. Know a guy who took a high mucky-muck psychiatrist or two off world secretly, there had been an internal coup or some such and they had to leave before they got shot or reprogrammed. There's a real issue with introverts, people scoring low on the EI scale are sent off to out of the way projects like the hydro-electric dam, the ruling faction on the council don't trust them. But someone out there is giving them extra militia training.
  6. It's the local fauna you got to look out for. There's ruins in the forests, real lost cities. The official line is that there was a failed colonising attempt, some Argentinian squatters who lacked the numbers, equipment and support to become self-sufficient. But though they aren't marked on any map you can see big lines and patterns from orbit, hundreds of miles across. There was an alien civilisation here, and the holiday camp they send their maladjusted folks to is in the middle of it. What wierd alien tech have they uncovered to use on them eh? What became of those aliens? Still there, degenerated into something innocuous looking maybe, but wanting these squishy human interlopers gone...
  7. One thing the Charellites won't tell you is that they believe in the Quantity Theory of Insanity. According to this, in any human society there will always be a certain amount of insanity, usually spread wide and shallow in the form of minor hang-ups and neuroses. The Charellite system is to off load all of this insanity on a few individual scapegoats who become deeply screwed up. The 'therapeutic community' they show you in the brochures is a sham, there's some very disturbed and dangerous psychopaths and paranoid schizophrenics, made that way by Charellite social manipulation supposedly to ease the burden of neurosis on the others, and they are kept in a very high security installation. The first inmate was Robert and Cynthia's own son, David, deliberately driven crazy by his own parents in the name of this wonky theory, and for traditional reasons any settler named David or Davinia is singled out for the same treatment.
  8. Being very into psychiatry the Charellites are seen as Engrams incarnate by the Scientologists, despite the rather obvious parallels between their psychiatric sessions and their own auditing, and the Charellite aim of elimination of neurosis and going clear. The Cathedral of Scientology in New Dorset on Aquila has a special branch of Sea Org set up in the woods where they try and train Scientological fanatics to fool the psychometrics of the Charellites and infiltrate their colony to commit acts of terrorism. They are the source of most of the paranoid conspiracy theories about Charelle. For their part the Charellites see the Scientologists as massively deluded and any they catch at their assessment centre are admitted and immediately sent to the Therapeutic Community for cult deprogramming. PCs may find themselves asked to rescue Scientologists from this facility, or to infiltrate and disrupt the colony on their behalf. One hysterical conspiracy theory put about by the Scientologists is that Charelle is the home of the 'Engram Generator', and visitors to the world are mentally poisoned with infectious psychological memes designed to suppress or even kill their Inner Thetan. Outsiders listen to this with the appropriate degree of scepticism.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

All Rockets are Haunted

Starships are bullshit. 

All that zipping about in hyperspace thumbing your nose at Einstein, playing silly buggers with Dark Matter, cheeking Higgs by creating shipboard gravity with no mass, juggling all those new quarks*, kicking Heisenberg in the nuts by disassembling your spaceship into particles and reassembling it hadron by hadron with no help from Maxwell’s demons, folding, warping and ironing space-time like you are an effing black belt in eleven dimensional origami, all serious bull.

You just can’t do that and expect everything to go swimmingly. Sod about with reality and you get unreality, and when things get unreal all kinds of worms chew their way out of the cosmic woodwork. All rockets are haunted, all spacers have a tale or two to tell about stuff that shouldn’t happen and if you believe the starport bar hype ghost ships outnumber the living ones by ten to one.

*Dark, Light, Jale, Ulfire, This, That and the Other (the Vague quark is still kind of theoretical)

All page references are for the Mongoose Traveller Pocket Rulebook.

The Ghost Nebula, photo by NASA

Starship Hauntings

All starships in Known Space acquire quirks that violate the laws of physics, a consequence of violations they themselves commit by merely existing. In the Traveller rulebook starships acquire one technical oddity per ten years as per the table on p136. Replace it with this one.


1d6% of the ship per warp number has been fractally rearranged on a macro scale. Appears normal while in warp, but reverts to rearranged state on re-entry to normal space. Usual functionality of inorganic components is strangely unimpaired, though impossible to fix if they go wrong. Organic material (ie crew) present when the rearrangement takes place is utterly jiggered, but may return to apparent normality when jump space is re-entered, if they are in the rearranged space. On the next return to normal space the affected organics are rearranged wherever they may be, and if they are not in this area that gets terminally messy. A number of ships have hermit crew members trapped in this situation, only properly alive during warp.
Unusually finicky warp drive, needs to be 1d10 (exploding) % further away from a gravity source to engage without causing a misjump and internal gravity must be disengaged when entering or leaving warp. Can be lived with, but warp drive can be replaced to avoid this issue.
Screaming Reactionless Drive. Unusual high pitched or ultrasonic noises come from the reactionless (maneuver) drive when in operation, usually very quiet but occasionally ear piercingly loud. No detectable vibration from any moving parts. Nervous engineers claim that the noises are some kind of language, really batshit ones say they are the howls of dark matter life-forms as they are called into existence and ejected as exhaust gases. Soundproofing does help.
‘Poltergeist’, or at least a transient and mobile anomaly in the internal gravity field. Crew may feel momentarily heavier or lighter, or gravity may even temporarily reverse or change vector so that walking down a corridor feels like going uphill. Stuff falls off shelves once in a while and spilt liquids may form tiny whirlpools. Replacing all the grav plates has only a temporary effect.
Temperature anomaly. Transient and mobile increases and decreases in temperature wander around the ship while in warp. Internal life support can compensate to some extent, but sudden sweats and chills of a few seconds can still be felt.
As Trav table.
As Trav table, but ‘Luxurious starship’ mysteriously cleans itself up when no-one is looking. May be helpful pixies, may be reversion of matter to a more ordered state in violation of the laws of thermodynamics, whatever, Stewards love it.
As Trav table, but ‘erroneous library data’ comes from a different time period. Entries in the Devangari alphabet dated ‘in the four thousandth year of the Treta Yuga’ for example, or from sometime in the next millennium written in Third Order Sinesperanto.
As Trav table, but ‘psionic echoes’ are merely real echoes in confined spaces where there really shouldn’t be any. Shouting into the broom cupboard sounds like shouting into a cathedral.
- 1 DM to all sensor checks. Sensors show ghost ships once in a while, or disconcertingly pick the wrong four dimensions out the eleven to display their results. The resulting images may resemble the innards of a giant lifeform, or passing space krakens or just squiggles.
-1 DM to all repair attempts, may just be old and knackered components, engineers claim it really is gremlins and/or control subroutines with malevolent AI sentience
Increase maintenance cost by 50%. Entropy is strong in this ship, or the gremlins are doing overtime, or the crew are just untidy buggers who put used ration packaging behind bulkheads and have attracted cockroaches with the urge to tinker.
-1 structure. Something went wrong with the warp field at some point and the frame is now recrystallised in nanometer scale fractal baroque.
Damaged thrusters, -1 to all Pilot checks. On bad days the dark matter backwashes over the hull leaving it slightly magnetised, squamous, spicluated and tenebrous.
As Trav table, but data as per entry 11 is present. This data may actually be useful and true, if you can translate and decode it. The dodgy data tends to disappear and reappear randomly with each warp however, and while you might print it or write it down as hard copy, the hard copy changes too wherever in the universe it may be.
As Trav table, but ‘improved computer’ secretly has a mild case of the AIs and its own agenda, and the improved sensors appear to be receiving in some exotic variety of radiation otherwise unknown.
Time dilation. Internal ship time moves 1d6% faster per warp number when in warp making trips subjectively shorter.
Mass dilation. Ship is 1d6% heavier, reducing effectiveness of drives.
Internal space/time warp. Corridors and rooms change size. Not visibly, or obviously, but it can be an awfully long walk to the head from time to time and you may wake up in a stateroom the size of a hangar or a cupboard. Crew subject to frequent deja vu and Jamais vu hallucinations.
Doppleganger ship. Sensors frequently indicate vessel on same course at limits of sensor range, exactly the same model, transponder code etc as own vessel. Attempted communication results in short circuit as comms officer finds he is talking to himself with a slight radio delay due to distance. Some reports tell of the Doppleganger appearing ever closer, no one knows what happens if the two ships ever meet.
Ghost crew member. Glimpses of the spook are seen out of the corner of your eye, footsteps heard, doors open etc, but nothing ever shows up on internal cameras or recordings, nor via Ouija board. Will carry out repairs/pilot/clean up and the like when no one is looking, some captains even try and schedule them duties on the roster. May or may not be deceased former crew, some are alleged to be ‘Grey’ humanoid aliens, others are allegedly pur black or pure white cats. Only present while in warp space.

Space-time Anomalies

Investigations into these phenomena by warp physicists (a neurotic breed since they spend their lives dealing with this shit) have shown that space/time is permanently altered every time a ship enters or leaves warp space. Fortunately space is pretty big, and your chances of flying through one of these areas of dubious physics is slim, but they do move and they are becoming very common in well travelled areas. The Earth system now has millions and belated attempts are being made to map them after they allegedly caused a few hair raising incidents, but with dozens more being created every week and their widely varying manifestation and detectability this is probably futile.

When rolling for encounters in space on the table on p 139 or the Traveller rulebook a roll of 71 or 83 has a 50% chance of being a space anomaly.


Dead Space. Ship ‘becalmed’ in lightless void for a period of time, no sensor input, drives make no difference. Roll 2d6  - 2-8 Minutes, 9 hours, 10 days, 11 weeks, 12 years, roll 1d6 (exploding) for units of time.
Temporal anomaly. Ship time subjectively speeds up (50%) or slows (50%) by 50%. Crew see this as a sudden speeding up or slowing down of the passage of the ship through space. Lasts 1d6 hours.
Doppleganger ship appears displaced from vessel 1d6 hours ahead on course, lasts 1d6 hours.
Large gravitational anomaly passes through ship in a wave from bow to stern doubling mass of anything within it by two then halving it a moment later with a random vector (ie everything may suddenly slam into the ceiling, roll ‘downhill’, be stuck to the floor). Several may be encountered in succession resulting in a rollercoaster effect.
Radio anomaly. Comms traffic suddenly changes to a different, possibly past, possibly future language, Space Traffic Control certainly sounds funny in ancient Akkadian.
Dark Matter plume. Scars hull with random recrystallisation of metals and ceramics, passes through ship as a 1d6m radius temperature (1-3), gravitational (4-5) or radiation (6) anomaly. Counts as an armour hit, and radiation as a crew hit.
Electromagnetic anomaly. Affects all ship systems, -1 DM to all Sensors, Comms, Pilot and Gunnery rolls until repaired. Reduces Computer rating by 1 unless shielded.
Acoustic anomaly. All sounds on the ship are muffled and echo as if in a vast cave. Sounds of distant screaming from Reactionless drive, all crew affected by sudden migraine/vertigo/epilepsy, lose 1d3 Int, regained at 1/day.
Gremlin. Series of 1d6 (exploding) internal hits to ship systems, happening at intervals of 1d6x5 minutes. Successful Computer rolls modified by Int can deactivate the suddenly rebellious ship subroutines after each hit.
Involuntary warp entry. Does 1 hit to warp engine, sudden acceleration to trans-light speed. A very quick de-warp will at least eject you back into real space in the same system.
Naked singularity, Does 3d6 damage, with a successful Pilot roll reduced to 2d6.

In Warp, no-one can hear you gibber (usually)

The ultimate nightmare is a malfunctioning warp drive. A ‘misjump’ result on the table on p 141 of the Traveller rulebook will result in one of the following interesting ways to die (or at least have your starship expensively fucked up).


Screaming death. By some horrible accident your ship is caught up in the dark matter intake of somebody elses R-Drive. Entire vessel and contents slowly squished into an R-Drive reaction chamber and ejected as exhaust material. Can make an emergency warp exit, but not before 1d100% of the vessel has been disintegrated.
Knocking from outside of ship during entire journey. Intermittent loud thumps reverberate through entire vessel from unknown source doing 1d6 external hits per week in warp. Sensors show nothing, if functional, and exiting the vessel during warp is not advised in any circumstance as the warp bubble rarely extends more than than a couple of inches from the hull. When back in normal space hull shows spiculation, squamation and tenebration in peculiar spiral patterns.
Temperature anomaly. While in warp space temperature rapidly drops. Lose 10 degrees Kelvin in the first day, 75% chance of losing another 10 degrees K next day and so on until temperature stops falling and stabilises or everyone freezes to death. Roll Engineer skill to get a ‘soft’ exit from warp if needed, otherwise a ‘hard’ exit causing 1 hit to warp drive, roll d6 on 5-6 a second hit and roll again etc. On a roll of 2 on the Engineer skill ship fails to exit, warp drive still takes damage, and it may plough on through warp space until everything reaches absolute zero and disintegrates.
Warp exit failure. Ship rematerialises with 1d100% of its structure fucked up on a subatomic scale. All surviving crew suffer 4d6 x 50 rads. Oddly enough the rearranged matter still seems to be functional, and the ship can re-enter warp with a -4 modifier to success if the pilot and control room are intact, and the screwed up matter will be back to normal at least while in warp space. Repairs can be attempted and 1d10% per Engineer roll effect number less will be rearranged on a subsequent exit. Ship will overshoot target by several million km due to excess time spent in warp space.
Warp exit failure. Ship does not leave warp when it is supposed to and ploughs on. Cutting the fuel for a ‘hard’ exit causes 1 hit to warp drive, and roll a d6, on a 5-6 a second hit is caused, the roll again and on 5-6 it suffers a third hit and so on. Ship overshoots target by 1d6 million km, more if the crew dither.
Warp entry failure. Warp drive suffers 1 hit. Roll a d6, on a 5 or 6 it suffers a second, roll again and on a 5-6 it suffers a third and so on and so on. On a bad day this will blow up the entire ship and at the very least will result in an expensive repair.
Partial warp entry failure. The warp core warps, the ship doesn’t. Warp core is just plain gone, leaving a knot of entirely fucked-up space-time in the engine room. Roll hits on Power Plant and Reactionless Drive as above, plus 1d6 further internal hits as the drive core blasts through the ship in the form of dark matter, rearranging all the real matter it meets in a nanometer scale fractal pattern. Just hope you aren’t in its way
Deformed Warp Bubble. d100% of the ship is outside the warp bubble and does not warp, the rest does. At minimum the warp core itself warps (half tonnage of warp engine) with effects as item 8 above. Otherwise the section that warps suffers explosive decompression and if the crew survives that they must make the best of a week long trip in airless wreckage with one side open to warp space. The section that stays in normal space suffers 1 internal hit per 10% of ships mass that warped as the rest of the ship ploughs through it in the form of a dark matter wave. This is how space junk is born.
Directional screw up. Add or subtract 1d6 to the x, y and z coordinates of your supposed exit point, and you have travelled +/- 1d6 years into the past or future. If into the past then there is no chance of meeting oneself. Your past selves and ship have just disappeared while in the warp and the events of the last few years have only happened to you and will not repeat. If into the future, again the ship will have quite simply have been lost for the duration of the time gap. Chances are you will be several parsecs into deep space with insufficient fuel to get anywhere near a planet, so it is a moot point anyway.
Ghostification. One member of the crew becomes a ghost, invisible and inaudible to the rest who also forget he ever existed. Ghost ceases to exist at all when ship returns to normal space, reappearing the next time the ship enters warp. Ghost may also become temporally unbound and each return to the ship may be to some point in the vessels past or future, though if to the past he will never see himself. It is as if he never existed at all. There is a 50% chance that he may suddenly find himself as a back or white cat ghost.
Dead Space. Ship has not entered warp space but another dimension entirely, nothing outside the ship, turning drives off and on does nothing. Stuck until fuel/air/food runs out and everyone aboard dies. May rectify itself spontaneously in 1d6 (exploding) time units. Roll 2d6 2-4 hours, 5-6 days, 7-8 weeks, 9 months, 10 years, 11 decades, 12 centuries. When ship exits it is apparently in the same place it started, but galactic rotation, stellar movement etc. may have shifted the local solar system some distance away. From outside the ship has become a naked singularity and a major hazard to shipping.

And a tip of the hat to M John Harrison again for more inspiration from the Kefahuchi Tract novels. Read them!