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[Traveller] Freelance Traveller #33 now available

Freelance Traveller #33 CoverThe September 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller has been posted for
download.

This month’s feature article is “Underworld Characters”, an expanded
character generation procedure by Harry Bryan for MegaTraveller.

We also have the usual assortment of reviews, stories, items, and so  onto make your Traveller universe richer and more interesting.

Download this latest issue at our usual places:
http://www.freelancetraveller.com/magazine/ is our main site; at our mirror, http://freelancetraveller.downport.com , please select the linkto “Magazine Downloads” or click on the image of this month’s cover.

… containing, among other things of more solemn nature, also a short article by me…

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[Perry Rhodan] Perry Rhodan #1 Operation Stardust

PR #1 cover

Perry Rhodan is THE mainstay of German science fiction. Now in it’s fourth or fifth generation of authors and having broken the mark of 2600 issues in it’s main series (continually published since 1961) one can say that this pulp series has a bit of a history.
The series was often derided for it’s politically inappropriate tone (especially in the beginning it was a bit too militaristic) but has grown out of that over time.
What I am trying to do (and what I have been planning for some time already) is reviewing the series from it’s beginnings in 1961 as far as I come. I don’t think I will ever manage to get anywhere close to today, but the classic first 50-100 issues are  interesting anyway. Back in the 60s this series was a bit of a experiment for the publishers, and they never thought that the series would be as successful as it was in the end. The first issue was sold out in no time and they even had to reprint it, before the series settled into something of a cultural miracle. One can see that in the series itself: they obviously did not plan more than 15 issues in the beginning, then not more than 30, and then they slowly had to get used to the idea that they were in it for longer. Starting with issue 100 the authors earnestly followed the concept of thematic cycles of 50 to 100 (later even up to 200) issues. In the beginning these things were not as planned, the plots sometimes were a bit crude, and the writing varied wildly even in novels from the same authors.
[Note regarding publishing history: in the wake of the success of Perry Rhodan in Germany a few novels were published in English as well (up to the 150s or so, there also are translations into Dutch, Portuguese (in Brazil), Japanese, and a few other places]
[Note 2: This is a roleplaying blog, so I will comb the issue for some ideas that can be used in roleplaying games. Perry Rhodan actually had multiple RPGs created for itself, some by fans, but one even officially. The problem with that official game is that it is based on Midgard (the first German RPG) and that one is, while I have a certain nostalgic fondness for it, pretty bad for that. As I am very fond of Mongoose Traveller most stats I will cook up will be for that system]

Perry Rhodan #1 Unternehmen “Stardust” (Operation Stardust)

“They came from the depths of the galaxy. Nobody ever expected them.”
Plot: It is 1971 and the USA is just about to win the space race. The newly created atomic rocket Stardust under command of experienced astronaut Cmdr. Perry Rhodan starts it’s trip from the spacport Nevada Fields to the moon. Everything goes well until they are close to their goal. All of a sudden the navigational transmissions from home are cut off, and only due to Perry’s quick reflexes they are able to crashland on the lunar surface more or less intact. Trying to contact homebase fails though as their radio equipment is destroyed by an unknown force.
Exploring the origin of this problem Perry and his friend Reginald “Bully” Bull encounter a stranded starship of impressive size (a sphere of 500m diameter) on the south pole of the moon and meet it’s crew, or at least part of it. The captain of the ship, Thora, and her relative, the scientist Crest are by far the most active of the crew members. The rest of the Arkonides on the ship are lethargic and distant and, as it turns out, completely addicted to virtual reality games. The ship itself is on a mission to find a cure for Crest’s sickness (soon to be identified by Stardust’s doctor Eric Manoli as leukemia, for which a cure exists on Earth) but was stranded with a busted jump drive when investigating the solar systems for clues. Perry takes the Stardust home with Crest on board to get him treatment, but instead of in Nevada Fields he lands in the Gobi desert because he realizes that the technology of the Arkonides should not fall into the hands of any of the big power blocs.

Critique: The plot is tightly packed, the writing is a bit shallow but not too bad, and the whole story does hinge on completely reasonable behaviour by both the American astronauts and Arkonides. It’s no wonder that the series became a success with this. There is action here but no fights, the Arkonides are not made up to be evil invaders, but rather normal people who are stranded, far away from home, and the astronauts are thoughtful and nice folks who offer to help as freely as possible,
The novel also manages to get to some central mysteries of the series pretty soon (why are the Arkonides so similar to humans? And what exactly were they searching for when they became stranded?) and manages to give an insight into both alien culture as well as a strange alternative universe. The novel appeared in 1961 and was set in 1971. For us who we are living 50 years afterwards this glimpse into near future history appears a weird. On the one hand it’s close enough for us to recognize the world as what we know it, on the other hand even in this novel thereare some strange details. The main spaceport of the USA is Nevada Fields, both Perry and Bully were involved in slingshot missions around the moon before the moon landing was supposed to take place. And the politics of the world… are somehow not what we know.
When I first read the novel as a kid in the 90s I realized that something was off, only on further readings I realized how different the world described here really was: the world is basically divided into three power blocs: the Western world, the Eastern Bloc, and the Asian Federation (which includes both China and Japan). There is a cure for leukemia, there are electronic brains (computers) even on Earth, which manage to correctly determine things they should not be able to. Later novels will show a large subterranean base for the West under Greenland and Poles as integral members of the airforce of the Eastern bloc. In other words: something is kind of odd here. Still, as a near future view from the 60s on the 70s it’s not too far out. Just a bit zeerusty.

Traveller Stats

Terra (in 1971) X867979-7
1970s Terra in the Perry Rhodan universe is balkanised into three big power blocs, and multiple smaller nations. These blocs seem to be much more integrative than they ever were in real life. Law level is rather high in any case, even in the West the press is not as free as it could be and obviously dependant on the goodwill of the government. Still, it varies wildly in different areas. Starport quality technically could be D because there are multiple facilities that could be used (at least one spaceport in every power bloc) but so far no officially assigned starport.

Luna X300000-0
An airless rockball that orbits Terra. It is comparatively large in comparison to other moons in the solar system.

Arkonides, Homeworld- (1970s)
Physical description: large, slender humanoids with white hair and red eyes, in most cases with a deep tan. Their cranium is slightly larger than those of Terrans and instead of ribs they have bone plates, but otherwise they are physiologically and genetically identical to humans.
Stats: Str -2, Dex -2, Int +1, Edu +2, Soc +2 (min. 6)
Career Options: Arkonides can choose Agent, Citizen, Scholar, Navy(Line/Flight), Entertainer, and Noble careers

Arkonides, Colonial-
Physical description: as Homeworld, but can vary wildly in details according to their home planet and colonial history
Stats: Str -1, Soc +1
Career Options: all except Merchant

 

[Traveller] TL 11 Robot Horses

I had some time the last few days. I spent some days in the mountains with my girlfriend, just us, with cold showers and no internet or phone reception. And only one computer. Yeah, we should have no computer at all and enjoy the countryside, but I guess we are too addicted to our technology. Lots of fun was had because of a document we had to send at the beginning of the week: we went to the only open hotspot in the town downhill. But that hotspot didn’t want to connect to our devices. So we had to use an unsecured other hotspot in the backyard of an insurance agency a local pointed us to. When did wifi hotspots become so important to us that we can trade them in casual conversation?

I planned my Traveller campaign a bit better though, and considering the Wild West vibe I try to give it I decided to create some windowdressing for it: robot horses. Because what says space western more than robotic horses?

Yes, I was inspired by Bravestarr and the likes.

The problem came with the method I tried to create them with: I tried to use the Robot book for Mongoose Traveller, and that didn’t work as well as imagined. The Robot book is basically for people who want to play robots or droids, while this one was mostly for the sake of background material. I guess one could play it as a character though.

Robot Horses (TL11): On some worlds where the environmental situation is adverse and where roads cannot be constructed reliably (often desert or agricultural worlds with low population) robot horses are being used in lieu of real animals. While real horses and other animals are definitely cheaper they also can be affected by different biological and environmental agents.

Robot horses, often more a gimmick in the beginning, can be used to replace those. There is no actual reason for them to have the typical form of horses, but as they are most often brought in as a replacement for already existing animals in the beginning, they often keep these traits even after they have replaced their inspirations.
They do have some features that keep them in use despite their expense and gimmicky nature though: they are able to move through areas inpassable by many other vehicles, they are more intelligent and obedient than real animals, able to perform independent actions, can be used for both transport and other menial tasks, and they do not need food.

One of the more interesting things about them for planets with comparatively low tech level is the low tech level of most components. Only a few absolutely necessary components of the robot have to be produced off world, most of the robot can be serviced by a more or less talented mechanic.

TexTech RoboSteed Basic (TL 11)
Characteristics: Str B, Hull 4, Structure 4, Int 3 (-1)
Skills:
Body: Size 4 long basic frame, Size 4 sprawling legs
Armour: 6
Input/Output: basic optics, audio sensor, basic vocoder, tactile sensor
Gadgets: satellite GPS
Computer: Linear CPU, memory stick TL9 1x, inhibitor
Software: PP 1
Cost: 23,900 credits

Pretty much everything about the basic version is rather, well, basic. Most of the contents can be replaced easily even in an TL8 environment. The satellite GPS is TL9 and if broken is often left like this. The tactile sensor is TL10 and might need to be replaced with a completely new unit if broken. The most high tech in the robot is the software, which brings the robot up to TL11, other than that most of it can be serviced locally even technologically moer basic areas.

TexTech RoboSteed Deluxe (TL13)
Characteristics: Str B, Hull 4, Structure 4, Int 3 (-1)
Skills:
Body: Size 4 long basic frame, Size 4 sprawling legs
Armour: 6
Input/Output: basic optics, audio sensor, basic vocoder, tactile sensor
Gadgets: inertial GPS, faux biological cover
Computer: Serial CPU, memory stick TL10 1x, inhibitor
Software: PP 2
Cost: 30.000 credits (special offer!)
The deluxe version of the RoboSteed was introduced with big fanfare but remained unsuccessful: it’s too high tech to allow proper maintenance at the low-medium techlevel RoboSteeds are usually employed  in. In most cases it is an expensive status symbol for people with money, rarely it is being used in productive settings. Most people would just use regular horses as a status symbol though.

[Traveller] Satboys

Vela 5B in Orbit

Vela 5B in Orbit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Satboys
Needed: planet with low to mid tech level and/or low population

Artifical satellites are one of the main tools of interstellar civilization. Often they are one of the first important steps for low tech civilizations to become technologically advanced, and be it only through the use of better communication technology than before. Consequently it’s a common sidejob many spaceship captains do when asked: just bring a small satellite up there for the greater good and a few extra creds.
Greg Winchester is someone with a plan: the only thing that stands between him and riches is the fact that his company does not have the facilities to launch some recently acquired TL 10 satellites into space. And that’s how the characters come in: some interested people are needed to get the satellites up into orbit with either their own ship, or with a chartered tram freighter that sometimes comes through. Easy enough, wouldn’t it be?

Complications:

  1. Everything is as presented, the only differences are of mechanical nature
  2. There is a rival to Greg’s company, and these people long had the same plan that he had. Their methods are a bit different though. They have hired a small team to make life diffcult for the characters.
  3. as 2. but the people hired are supposed to depose of them in orbit. No satellites means nobody around to trace back a murder or two in orbit
  4. Coincidence as it may be, but there is already a satellite in that orbit. Although not known down below the government does like to keep tabs on it’s citizens/spy satellites are in high use on this balkanized world
  5. as 4. but instead of a normal satellite this thing has nuclear weapons installed, for the greater good…
  6. as 5. but that was exactly what Greg thought they would find. He is in the employ of one of the planets secret services and supposed to destroy those. Oh. if there were not thse pesky space marines defending this thing…

[Traveller] Inspiration: Planetes

Planetes

Planetes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Planetes is an excellent Japanese anime about debris haulers in space. The series is rather mature and thanks to the involvement of the Japanese Space Agency JAXA also one of the hardest Science Fiction series around.

All the technology in the series is extrapolated from real life technology, and most of it would be manageable today, if anyone had the funding for it.
The series follows the adventures of the Debris collection department of Technora Corp. Put down as “half-section” by their coworkers and considered the dregs of the company, the department has all the prestige of garbage men while being badly paid and extremely dangerous.

Half Section is a PR gimmick: they get funding from official sides for cleaning up debris from 130 years of space developement because it makes space travel safer. Unfortunately there is no big money in cleaning up the mess of others. They do the good work and still are constantly in danger of being closed down by executives looking for revenue instead of safety.
The characters (a multinational crew including Americans, Japanese, Russians, Indians, etc.) are faced both with the problems of working in space (brittle bones, leukemia due to decades of space raditation), politics interfering with their work, and of course good old character developement in all the wrong moments.

During the course of the series there is both a surge of terrorism (funded by poorer nations left out of the space exploration by richer nations) and the ongoing project of space exploration (the main character joins the crew of the first Jupiter mission).

The series is a beauty to behold: the animation is good even in normal scenes and gets even better when in space. There is no sound in space except what the characters hear in their EVA suits, characters and crafts move realistically in Zero-G and most of the plots are based on sound scientific principles, while also being interesting and having quirky but relatable characters. The voice acting is wonderful, at least in the Japanese original (both the English and German dub that I listened to were horrible).

Definitely one of the better examples for Japanese Animation.

Note: I am a fan of Japanese anime, but I do realize that there is a lot of crud around barely worth watching

What to steal from here:
Well, there is a reason I post this on my roleplaying blog after all, mostly because I think it is a good source for inspiration for Science Fiction games with a certain Hard Science bent, especially for Traveller. Which is not really that hard a setting, but at least it tries in a lot of places. The series itself already is good because it gives a good picture of a mid-tech space environment: neither too shabby, but also not too advanced. Going to space is not casual, but not an adventure either (a trip to the moon is treated as a expensive cruise, people for all that matters lead a normal life on the space stations and the moon). People in orbit are there mostly because they work there, and while they are considered specialists they often are low paid grunt workers  (but they wouldn’t want to give it up because they love space). The space station in the series is big, but not too big, and people obviously have limited space for their quarters (most of the characters sleep in a dorm with Zero-G bunks). Smoking is prohibited on most of the station, but special smoking rooms are common.

Areas of special interest:
Kessler Syndrome
Kessler Syndrome happens when a large object in orbit disintegrates and creates more debris by that. Normally even small objects when destroyed might lead to secondary debris, which in turn leads to more accidents and even more secondary debris. The work of the debris haulers is a constant fight against this problem. The true problem might come when a really large object (such as, say, a space station or a large ship) is destroyed, and all the debris from that one object shrapnels into other objects in Earth orbit and creates even more problems. All of a sudden space travel becomes pretty much impossible as both the launch and landing of crafts is made impossible.
A planet might become completely cut off the rest of the world tradewise by something like that. Of course in the series this was used as a threat by terrorist organisations. Earth in the series had become so dependant on space resources that it was impossible to survive without them.

Scenario ideas:
* the Ine Givar (or any other terrorist organizations) is threatening to blow up a large space station (maybe the highport) of a high TL  world and cut of the world from the Imperium for at least a few months. Enough to lead to mass starvation and riots on a world that is highly dependant on imports. Normally the Navy would take care of it, but they are just out of reach, taking care of a problem too far out to act quickly enough. The characters somehow are thrown into the whole ordeal
* The aftermath of exactly the same situation: 40 years ago the high port of a world exploded and made space travel to and from the world impossible. Now the debris situation has been resolved so far as to allow the first Travellers onto the world again. What do they find 30 years after the last transmission from the world was received?

[Traveller] Dying in Mongoose Traveller Character Generation

It’s possible. I thought so when I first read the rules, but it just happened to me. Without the famous Iron Man rules proposed by Mongoose even.

For a short explanation: Traveller must have been the first game ever that allowed characters to die in character generation. This made the generation of characters in the game a bit of a gamble. Technically it was possible that the character in his next career term would get better, more important, more wealthy, whatever… but he/she also could just die.

The version published by Mongoose Publishing is quite close to the old Classic Traveller, but a bit more lenient in that respect. Instead of automatically being killed the character suffers a mishap and is in most cases ejected from the career after that. Then the character can be used, or can go on doing a different career in the character generation process until the player is satisfied. There is an optional rule though (the Iron Man rules) which reinstates the old process.

All the old grognards have been moaning for the last few years that the old process was so much better, and that one should be able to die in character generation because that’s how Traveller always was… I never read anyone noticing that it is perfectly viable that a character will die in Mongoose Traveller generation even if it’s not done with Iron Man rules. Weird.

But well, it takes something like this: physical characteristics of 6 and lower, a career in a combat oriented/physical career, a failed survival roll in a career leading to the mishap table, a roll of 6 on the mishap table (or any other that causes injury), and then an injury roll that gives enough stat damage to bring one physical characteristic to 0.

Now this one was the most likely option (there are more) and even that one is a rather remote chance, and obviously one would be able to get around it by intelligently choosing the character’s careers. Bbut there still is the chance that something might happen that kills the character. Especially if the character has to roll two injury rolls in two terms.

Which all in all is a bit more realistic (yeah I know, the bad r-word again) than people being killed left and right as was usual in Classic Traveller. After all it can happen: some people are killed even in the best of cases. Especially when people are joining the military. Because, well, people are shooting at you much more often when you’re a soldier than when you’re a painter or working in fastfood.

How my dead character happened? Oh, I actually had Spica Publishing’s Career Book 2 involved. That one has a nifty Cosmonaut career that reminded me of Planetes. The poor girl got booted out of her first career (Navy) by mishap, had a micro-meteorite strike her during EVA in the second term, and then had a vac suit malfunction in her third. Funnily enough the last two things were not even mishaps but normal career events, meaning that the Cosmonaut career is damn dangerous.

Ah, yeah, how realistic. 🙂

Terry Pratchett and the Maggi Soup Adverts

Back in the 90s (starting with Moving Pictures) Terry Pratchett (yet to be knighted) changed his German publisher. A rather radical move in the market for someone who had been published by Heyne for a dozen books to raising sales. I remember reading it in the Jahrbuch der Science Fiction and Fantasy 1994 (Annual of Science Fiction and Fantasy): It stated in a rather laconic tone that his books would now be published by Goldmann instead of Heyne. The brisk tone of the notice (where most others would have had a small quip with amazing insider info on different deals) might have been connected with the fact that the editor of the Jahrbuch was also the chief editor of Heyne, and he was reporting about himself losing a bestselling author.

The reason for the change was… well… the Heyne publishing house put in a soup advert in one of his books without asking, and would not promise to not do it again. As Pterry said himself:

There were a number of reasons for switching to Goldmann, but a deeply personal one for me was the way Heyne (in Sourcery, I think, although it may have been in other books) inserted a soup advert in the text … a few black lines and then something like ‘Around about now our heroes must be pretty hungry and what better than a nourishing bowl’… etc, etc. My editor was pretty sick about it, but the company wouldn’t promise not to do it again, so that made it very easy to leave them. They did it to Iain Banks, too, and apparently at a con he tore out the offending page and ate it. Without croutons.

Okay, I know what you are thinking now: What?

Here’s a picture of the whole business from the German edition of Pyramids Sourcery:

The text in the blackout section reads something like: the stairway Teppic was on was not really good for a break… but we can have one, so let’s adjourn for 5 minutes and make a cup of soup…

It might actually be pretty good fortune that Trymon spent his time reading old manuscripts, as like that he had to lose against an angry Rincewind. But this also hides a hint to the reader to watch out for proper nourishment, A small bit of nourishment, all without magic spells…etc.

It’s an ad for a 5-minute soup.

Yeah. It’s real.

That was a standard practice for Heyne back then. At least with their genre novels. And it was noticeable to a lot of people because they had the good luck of having one of the largest and best selections of SF/F-literature in the country. Mostly thanks to awesome editors.

Pratchett was not the only one with the soup adverts, I remember at least one Star Trek novel and a few non-franchise ones having the same stuff in it.

The whole thing was a holdover from the 50s or 60s, when practices like that were more common, especially with publishers of cheap genre fiction. They were rather popular for pulling in additional revenue on cheaply priced paperbacks that might not make their money back. And as the genres were not really seen as literature at all by anyone who mattered, fans and editors often had to fight bloody battles to get their stuff published even if it did go bestseller in the end. Mind you though, this was the 90s, the average price for Heyne paperbacks was 13 Marks/6,5 Euros, not the cheapest of books by then.

It was definitely out of place for a publisher which was already one of the market leaders in that time. I do have the strong suspicion that these things were a standing order from the 60s: Most likely at one point in the past the SF/F editor of Heyne got told by  management they had to run these adverts so the books could make some money back, and then they never revoked it afterwards.

I know how company policies work. It would be something like that.

Fans of course got used to it, if it gave them access to the books, why not? But it became more and more grating the more genre literature was accepted into mainstream.

And then you actually had a bestseller author like Pratchett jump ship and go to the direct contender (Goldmann), just because one of these stupid stunts. I wonder how that actually was taken by the Heyne CEOs. Back then Pratchett was at the verge of becoming a star in Germany as well, so they lost him just when he was getting big. It might just have been a secondary thing, but I never saw one of these adverts in any novel published after ’94.

Edit: the old picture from Pyramids was broken, I replaced it with another one from Sourcery, this one was even more tacky. So yes, there were multiple ones. 

[Traveller] 30 Quick Questions For Your Starsystem

Way back in April (basically the Dark Ages in internet terms) Jeff Rients introduced a set of 20 questions for quickly fleshing out a fantasy campaign. Brillant idea. It just gives the basics, and I highly recommend using it to get a basic idea about any campaign setting. Now, of course, Traveller already does give some of the basics, but always even more basic than even D&D. After all, in Traveller there’s a new world every week. So here we have a little questionaire to fill in the most important blanks for that next system you’ll visit.

Just take a good look at the UWP, note what you like, and then let the answers just come…
1. Can we breathe without aid?
2. Can we stand normally or is everything totally screwed gravitationwise?
3. Can I wear guns?
4. And what happens when I do?
5. What else is banned here?
6. So, where can I get guns in this place?
7. And how do I get money to pay for them?
8. So, how do you guys make money?
9. How many peopleare around?
10. Where can I find somebody to ask a lot of stupid questions? (e.g. scientists, historians)
11. Are they fighting each other?
12. Who’s fighting whom? And who’s winning?
13. Would it be advisable/profitable/sane to get involved and how much do they pay?
14. Who is in power?
15. But who do we actually deal with?
16. Where is the next bar/where’s the startown?
17. And what do we drink there?
18.Who might be the worst person to piss off while pissed?
19. How long has this world been settled?
20. And by what sort of people?
21. How many white spots are left on the map?
22. How about within the whole system?
23. What do you guys eat here? Anything interesting?
24. Any other customs I should be aware off?
25. So I pick out a random passersby and ask him what he believes, what’ll he tell me?
26. What rumours have been going around the last few months?
27. What companies are there? And if none, where’s the money?
28. So, I think I felt something between us, can you tell me the way to the next Psi Institute?
29. Is there anyplace on this world where I definitely should not go and if yes, hoe do I get there?
30. What’s the fastest way to get rich in this system?

[Labyrinth Lord] Tripod

Alien tripod illustration by Alvim Corréa, fro...

Ulla Ulla

   Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine-tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.
    — The War of the Worlds, Book 1, Chapter 10

  Boilers on stilts, I tell you, striding along like men.
    — The War of the Worlds, Book 1, Chapter 14

Tripod
No. Enc.: 1 (1d6)
Alignment: as Pilot
Movement: 120’ (30’)
Swim: 60’ (20’)
Armor Class: -3
Hit Dice: 15
Attacks: 1 (tentacles, heat ray, black smoke cannon)
Damage: 1d8/1d6x10/see below
Save: F15
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: as Pilot

The Hematophagian Warmachine, or simply: Tripod, is one of the most staggering examples of engineering ever found on any world. They are surrounding the Hematophages and their fragile bodies as they go about into the dangerous world outside of those beacons of civilization that are their cities. With them they are not only the world’s largest intellect, but also on the top of the foodchain, on any planet. They consist of a pilot capsule outfitted with everything even for long-term survival in dangerous areas and enough space for up to 2 passengers. They walk on three powerful, flexible legs which also can be used to attack things if the need arises.
The tripods are armed with a Heat-Ray which is held by one of their tentacles and black smoke, a type of poison gas which is deployed by cylinders. It can also discharge steam that dissipates the Black Smoke. They can use Black Smoke and dissipation agent 5x per day.
Their tentacles, which hang from the main body, are used as probes and to grasp objects. The tripods also sometimes carry a cage or basket which would be used to hold captives so the Martians could drain their blood.

Black Smoke
The black smoke is a devilish gaseous weapon. It is sent to the battlefield in canisters which wherever they land start to discharge a black, ink-like smoke covering an area of x feet circumference. Anyone who gets into contact with it has to save versus poison and take 2d6 damage, or loose 3d8 damage.
All tripods also carry a dissipation agent with them that can be used to clear the area and transform the smoke into harmless black dust.

The Heatray
The most fearful weapon of the tripod: unseen by the human eye (creatures and heroes with night- or darkvision can see it though) this weapon kills nearly instantly (doing 1d6x10 damage) if save against gaze weapons fails. The heatray can turn around in a 240 field of vision and hit everything in line of sight. In many cases whatever gets hit by the ray will just burst into flames.

[Traveller] Alien Invasion!

Snark missile launch

Take that alien scum!

There is a small lost world with human inhabitants. It is interdicted and uncontacted, it is xenophobic, and heavily balkanized (sounds familiar?). Also it is so far advanced it can front up a few nuclear warheads for any threat that comes it’s way (which is why it is interdicted). Normally not many threats do come it’s way, a regular Navy-patrol is making sure of that, for the sake of both visitors and inhabitants of the planet. There where a few incidents in the past when merchants and scouts were killed by the inhabitants of this world. For the inhabitants these occasions seemed to be harbingers of alien invasions that were barely averted.
But the world also has the sector’s most highly priced

1) Whiskey (that special kind of moonshine from the Fragxan Mountains)
2) Foie Gras
3) Snark (a kind of lizard that tastes like chicken)
4) Vomitsnails (completely disgusting, but a highly priced fad on some worlds)

and the patron will pay a lot to get it from there. Normally the only contact possible is through a small merchant company working together with a few agents planetside. They bribed the Navy to look away at the right moment and land at some place in the back of the woods where nobody will notice them. But nowthe patron wants to undercut their prices and get all the goods for far less money. Why not send a few freelancers there to get the stuff? It can’t be that hard, can it?
Naturally this will not be that easy. For example the characters might not get told about the xenophobic, non-contacted part of this planet…

Directions to take this:
1. The characters are seen when entering the atmosphere and cause a major alarm. Fears of alien invasions, fueled by sightings of earlier spacecraft and some cold war paranoia make the characters an easy target on the bomb screens…
2. The characters are actually welcomed by one of the nations. Unfortunately this nation hopes for better weapon technology from them. Characters without the willingness to part from that will have to face all the force of that nation.
3. as 2. but some other nation actually notices that something is afoot and threatens to turn the planet into ashes if the characters should give a few too many (read:any) secrets to nation A
4. The characters are not noticed when entering the planet, but getting the local goods nevertheless proves difficult: cold war paranoia makes it nearly impossible to buy the goods
5. As 4. but the local secret service is after them because they believe them to be alien invaders
6. as 5. but another agency from another country is also after them, to get on their side for the coming invasion.
I was thinking of running this like a reverse 50s scifi movie, with all the trappings of the Atomic Age and Cold War paranoia on the other side. The idea of course was that in all those movies, for some reason nobody quite seemed to ever grasp (except budget restrictions) aliens were suspisciously humanlike.