Sunday 28 August 2016

Elves of Known Space

The inhabitants of Aquila, capital of the Aquila Sector, are an eccentric lot, and not only does it have a Hobbit colony, it has a population of Elves as well.

A very hospitable Garden world it attracted a large number of colonies from all over Earth including some utopian groups who rejected most technology and sought to live 'in harmony' with the environment. The global warming that had seriously affected Earth by the end of the 21st century was a prime example of what could go wrong.

Most of the colonies were underfunded, under-equipped and over optimistic about how easy it would be to adapt to Aquila's not-quite Terran ecology. The only ones who made a success of going back to nature was a Tlingit group, and they brought plenty of modern guns, chainsaws and motor boats and a laboratory load of exo-zoologists to make a thorough study of which local fauna and flora could be exploited and how much human predation they could bear.

The more dippy-hippy types mostly drifted into the farms and towns of the less idealistic colonies to avoid starvation, resulting in a relatively high proportion of Druids, Odin worshippers and Wiccans in the modern population. 

But on the edges of the major colonies and in areas left as parks and nature reserves there are still holdouts, survivors of the initial colonies, and it became the fashion among these people to have their ears surgically altered to be pointed in the cheap plastic surgery clinics catering to the suburbanites of the New Dorset, Merovin and Onika colonies. The 'wild elves' in the backwoods achieve the same effect in an initiation ordeal involving obsidian knives, bone needles and plenty of opiod and catecholamine containing plants.

There are now over three million of them. Three-quarters of these elves are part-timers, living normal lives in the technologically advanced cities and spending only a couple of months a year in their forest villages, some of which are actually rather plush 'glamping' holiday homes. Another eighth are effectively in the tourist trade or work as park rangers and a only a few live up their ideal of living entirely self sufficient lives off the land. 

The 'half-elves' seem to do well in marketing and management consultancy, segueing easily between mystical baloney and management jargon. It seems no Human Resources department on the planet is without a glib elf to promote the cosmic oneness of the team.

They follow revived and reconstructed versions of long defunct 'pagan' religions from Earth and some have gone the whole hog and treat Tolkein's fictional mythology as if it was real. Some 'serious' occultists are dismissive, but others accept that according to the theories of Chaos Magick, mentally creating your own deities is perfectly acceptable. They are well known for their use of recreational drugs, not that most of Aquila has a problem with that, and like to use strong hallucinogens for special religious rituals. Some even speak Quenya, the fictional language Tolkein concocted for his creation.

They are coming into conflict with the rest of Aquilan society. 'Green' parties have considerable influence in Aquilan politics and industrialisation has been as low impact as possible, but it has had some effect. The elves have turned militant on occasion and resorted to localised eco-terrorism, and kidnappings of campers who fail to clean up after themselves are almost routine. Others have turned their attention to the damage being caused to other worlds of the Aquila sector by even less considerate colonial regimes.

Mongoose Traveller rules

Dave 'Celeborn' Nasmith, elf advertising salesman

Part-time elf, 'half-elf'

  • Social Standing is -1 due to them being regarded as eccentrics and outsiders, Education is -1 due to ideological issues with many areas of science and technology.
  • Must take Survival 0 as one of their background skills.
  • Have a -1 DM to enlistment in any career that involves military service or travel off-world.
  • They may abandon any career and become a Drifter/Barbarian, and this the default option if they fail to enlist or re-enlist in a career.
  • In any situation where knowledge of technology is a factor they have an effective TL of 10, even though their planet is TL 12.
  • May take Militant Religious and Insurgent from the Spica Career books.
  • May not use cybernetic enhancements.

Nalacra sez take your empty beer cans home or else.

Elf, 'wild elf' or 'wood elf'

  • Endurance +2, Education -4, Social Standing -2; they are thought of as potentially dangerous due to drug use and history of terrorism. They really have no use for most conventional education.
  • Gain Survival 1 as part of their background skills.
  • Have a DM of -2 to enlist in any career other than Drifter/Barbarian, Citizen/Colonist, Militant Religious or Insurgent. Their reputation for ideological fixation and religious eccentricity precedes them.
  • They may abandon any career and become a Drifter/Barbarian, and this the default option if they fail to enlist or re-enlist in a career.
  • In any situation where knowledge of technology is a factor they have an effective TL of 4, even though their planet is TL 12.
  • Regard those who use cybernetic enhancements as less than human and are openly hostile towards them, dubious about genetic manipulation.

Adventure Hooks

  • The Voice of the Planet are a very militant elf terrorist group who have staged some high profile attacks on major industrial areas and are now targeting civilians in the Korine Pines district of Onika. The civilian attacks are unusual for this kind of group, but as the players investigate it becomes apparent that the 'Voices' have decided that the ideal population of Aquila is 30 million - the current population is over 300 million. The planet has suffered asteroid strikes in the distant past and recovered, a precedent the VoP may follow...
  • A daredevil thief has nabbed a fortune in jewels from the luxury space liner 'Princess Marguerite' and bailed out in orbit using a personal re-entry shield to reach the planetary surface. He hit ground somewhere in the Indigo Lakes National Park, players are going to need the help of the local elves to find him, and they might be helping him to find his way out.
  • The elves are leaving Middle Earth... Even though there is plenty of wilderness left on Aquila, some elves feel that it is getting overcrowded, industrialised and will be like Earth back in the late 21st and early 22nd centuries in a couple of generations. They are on the lookout for a new unspoilt planet to colonise, or have found one in the fringes of Known Space, and with the aid of a successful half-elf who has made a pile selling gimcrack magic crystals and tree-bark 'healing bands' to the gullible back in the core worlds are hiring merchants to take them there.
  • The Psionics Institute in New Dorchester has long claimed to be able to awaken mankind's latent psychic ability, and has a small but dedicated following for their meditation programs and vaguely yoga like exercise programs. Sceptics say they are nothing but a scam (their history as an offshoot of the Church of Scientology doesn't help), but they are promoting some elf called Merkurius 'Feanor' Hyvonen as having amazing powers. Merkurius background is obscure, he is apparently a wild elf from a tribe in the back of beyond discovered by a PI holidaymaker. What can he really do? How much is bullshit? Is he taking the PI for a ride? Or are they taking advantage of some shroom head hippy hillbilly?
  • Now it is getting fucking silly, the Orcs are on the march! Nationalist grav-biker gangs in New Dorset have dabbled in Nordic style paganism for a while, though vociferously disowned by the Orthodox and Reformed Grove Odinists. They have never liked the elves, stupid hippies that they are, but a couple of gangs are beating them at their own game, dying themselves green and sharpening their teeth to become Tolkeinesque 'Orcs'. They are getting hopped up on amphetamines and riding over the leafy lanes of New Welwyn Garden City stun-gunning and beating anyone with pointy ears. Rumour has it that they have been deployed as 'security guards' by Twinkling Springs Hydroelectric who are planning on damming a really quite minor river near the Indigo Lakes and have been meeting elvish resistance.

Sunday 7 August 2016

Toys for Tékumel

In Tsolyànu and the other four empires of Tékumel technology plays second fiddle to magic, but the inhabitants aren't complete slouches when it comes to chemistry and mechanics. This is a list of equipment you might find available in marketplaces here and there, or even create yourself if you have the appropriate skill.

Jnéksha'a sticks

Named for the mighty demonic Scythe of Flame and Ravener of Cities these are actually just friction matches. They consist of a blob of powdered chlorate of potash mixed with camphor, sulphide of antimony and some hard tree resin on the end of a thin wooden stick three inches long. They are kept in a box made from a short length of bamboo and closed at the ends with wooded lids. With a bit of scraping on the side of the box they burst into flame, a miracle of Vimúhla! Come in boxes of multiples of nine, this being the sacred number of that god. You can spot the very low clan workers who make them by 'phossy jaw', a painful necrosis of the teeth and jaw bone caused by phosphorous poisoning.

Roll a d6 to use, they ignite on a 1-5 and break or fizzle out and become useless on a 6, and are harder to light outdoors only going off on a 1-2. Cost 3 káitars for a box of nine.


Distilled from certain tars and mineral oils this delightfully volatile and flammable substance can be bought at Temples of Vimúhla for fiery libations to the Lord of Red Devastation, or just chucked at your enemies in a glass grenade with a smouldering fuse. Only hold it long enough for a brief prayer to Jmár the Lord of Flame though, this stuff is pretty dangerous. Cost 2 káitars a bottle or 5 for the stuff mixed with viscous palm oil. The normal grade burns for a mere one round, the palm oil variant for 1d6.

Powder of Extinguishing

Every now and again you have to douse a fire quickly, and a jar of the pale blue dust from the Desert of Stolen Breaths (asbestos) does the job nicely. Costs 15 káitars a jar as the slaves sent to dig the stuff up and package it don't last very long and need continual replacement.

The Cunning Firestarter of Zi'po

A box of beaten bronze filled with light naphtha and equipped with a neat little mechanism of flint, steel and springs, these are a bit of a status symbol among the richer followers of Vimúhla. A basic one will set you back 50 káitars, but many are inlaid with gold and decorated with red glass cloisonne or gems, wrought in the form of a demon etc. and are as expensive as jewellery. Much more reliable than mere matches, roll a d20, ignites on 1-18, merely sparks on a 19, runs out of fuel on a 20.

Physicians Kit

Rice-paper and cotton bandages, some chlen hide splints, a curved bronze needle and some thread, a selection of faience amulets to bind over wounds, a cup and knife for bleeding and restoring the balance of the humours, some aniseed for cleansing the breath (and thus the Balétl, the spirit-soul), some bitter roots as an emetic, some pure white chalk for writing a prayer to Avánthe or Keténgku on the injured limb, all the modern Tsolyani first aider needs. 20 káitars for a neatly packed leather satchel, roll d8 for each use, on an 8 supplies have run out.

Speaker to Mortals

One magical item sometimes found in the underworld is 'The Speaker to Mortals'. Often mistaken for the much more potent 'Speaker to Gods', these are black glassy slabs framed and backed with that strange ancient 'metal' that is not quite metallic. With a bit of work from a sorcerer if they have any power they can be activated to create a soft glow marked by colourful ancient glyphs and by poking certain of these glyphs in a particular order another Speaker to Mortals can be induced to emit a musical tune, and if you press a certain glyph voice communication can be established between the users. They sometimes have subsidiary functions, but generally sorcerers don't like messing about with them too much as they can shut down or start doing strange things like exposing invisible demons hiding on street corners. Communication can be patchy, especially underground, and works best when the moon Káshi is in the sky. Cost 5000 káitars plus 100 more per glyph sequence that will activate another known Speaker. Will run out of charge on a roll of 20 on a d20.

Getting the sequence wrong results in a number of effects. One poor soul nearly wet himself when he found himself talking to a Ssú through this device, and was even more petrified when it announced itself to be Bássa, King of the Black Ssú, and demanded to know why he was making prank calls in the middle of the night. They are known to be haunted by an annoying demon named Sìri who asks stupid questions and dispenses useless advice in an ancient language.