“There is always a segment of society that wants to hang out in bars and hire shady people to steal things from other people, or even steal other people.” – Interface Zero
New Hope, January ’01
“You seem very familiar with the local back alleys,” Coriander observes.
“Twelve years in the scout corps, you visit a lot of places. And to be honest, after a few weeks in hyperspace, you mostly want some entertainment, so you spend most of the time between trips in bars,” admits Arion.
“Okay,” Dmitri says, “We’re looking for people who are rich and morally flexible. Where’s good to find them?”
“I know just the place,” says Arion.
“Why am I not surprised?” Coriander mutters to herself.
“It’s called the Brass Monkey,” Arion continues, affecting not to hear her.
I’m running through the campaign in the 5150 No Limits rulebook, Maiden Voyage, to familiarise myself with the rules – it’s been a couple of years since I played THW and this ruleset is a little different to the ones I’ve used before. The first encounter in that campaign is Chillin’ (p. 55), which is based on the Chillin’ encounter type (p. 32). It’s an exercise in handling PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces), which are the THW version of random encounters. As I’m learning the ropes the next few episodes will be heavier on rules explanations than usual.
There are 1 + 1d3 PEFs, in this case I roll a 1 so that’s two PEFs. Per the scenario rules, I need to use one of those to meet a contact for a job, so there is only one to resolve. As I can resolve as many or as few of the PEFs as I like, I could bypass the PEF, but where’s the fun in that? The number of NPCs in the PEF (p. 33) is the number of characters in my band (3) + 1d3 – 1d3, which turns out to be 3. As I’m using the pregenerated campaign, the NPCs are already statted up; a roll of 5 tells me these are Exotics, which fits in nicely with the storyline – counting off the first three of the Exotic pregen NPCs, we get a transporter, a xeog smuggler, and a grath mercenary.
The trio enter the Brass Monkey and belly up to the bar. One of the tables is occupied by another group of three; a basic and a xeog, deep in conversation, and a grath with a lumpy jacket whose eyes sweep the bar like searchlights around a prison compound. They lock on to Arion, Cori and Dmitri for a second, long enough to assess the relative threat level, then return to scanning the other clientele.
As per p. 29, I now check if the PEF is friend or foe. Each group rolls 1d6 plus the number of members; the PEF’s leader rolls 2 + 3 = 5, Arion rolls 3 + 3 = 6. As neither score is more than twice the other, there is no fight as yet, so we go to p. 70 and the NPC Interaction table. Cori is the Face of the group, but the implication of the rules is that the group leader (Arion) handles interaction – this is a shame as Cori’s attributes would add +1d6 and have the chance to reroll any one die. Oh well. Arion has no applicable attributes, and is a Joe Labour interacting with an Exotic, so rolls 1d6 less. Arion rolls 1d6 vs Rep 5 and gets a 3; as this is lower than or equal to his Rep, he “passes” 1d6. The NPC group leader rolls 2d6 vs Rep 4 and gets 1, 6; he too passes 1d6. As the groups passed the same number of dice, they ignore each other. Probably just as well with a xeog and a grath involved. I’ll call the new world Pontus.
As Arion and Dmitri exchange glances with the grath, Cori and the stunning blue-skinned xeog female check each other out as potential opponents in a different kind of competition.
A brief discussion with a muggie zhuh-zhuh gets them a table, and they sit, looking at menus, while a human waitress brings over a large pitcher of beer.
“No sign of Berengei… oh wait, there he is,” says Arion, exchanging nods with a zhuh-zhuh who lumbers over to their table.
“Arion,” rumbles the zhuh-zhuh, “Always good to see you. Who are your friends?”
“This is Coriander, my first mate, and this is Dmitri. He’s… good at finding things.” The zhuh-zhuh throws back his head and laughs good-naturedly, showing impressive teeth.
“First mate, eh? I haven’t heard that one before, most of the high end customers bring their nieces, if you know what I mean.”
Berengei helps himself to half the pitcher of beer.
“So,” he says, wiping foam from his lips. “I hear you’re looking for a job, eh? Well, it just so happens I know a guy, who knows a guy, who needs some cargo hauling… quietly…”
The campaign doesn’t say what the cargo is or where to take it, but that’s easy enough to find out by rolling on the tables on pp. 42 and then rolling for planet class and law level on the table on p. 27. Arion rolls 2d6 vs Rep 5 (5, 6) and passes 1d6 – I don’t like the look of that so I use Extraordinary Effort (p. 10) – once per encounter a Star can roll an extra d6 on any table. This one comes up 5 as well, so now Arion passes 2d6 on the Hauling Cargo table and gets 1d3 = 3 points of cargo to carry to (1d6 = 5, 1d3 = 1) Ring 2. The world is class (1d3 = 2), law level (1d6 – class = 2), and controlled by (1d6 = 3) Gaea Prime. As the 2d6 passed were doubles, the cargo is contraband.
“What, to where, and how much?”
“Pontus. A class 2 planet in Ring 2. You’re better off not knowing what, but don’t let any officials peek in the containers. All up it will be worth 10 blocks to you.”
“Sounds good. I’m in.”
The trip is from Ring 3 (New Hope) to Ring 2 (destination). Arion will be paid 2 increasing Rep d6 (2), plus 2 per hull point of contraband cargo (6), plus one per Ring travelled through (2), for a total of 10 increasing Rep d6. That’s netted off by expenses of three decreasing Rep d6 which are the operating costs for a Trader class ship, leaving a net 7d6 increasing Rep.
The Maiden Voyage campaign fits best into the campaign rules if you assume encounter 1 occurs in January, and 2, 3, and 4 occur in February. That means those 7d6 increasing Rep dice come in next month, and this month, Arion has 3 decreasing Rep dice for the upkeep on the ship and crew. I roll 6, 2, 2 and fortunately his Rep holds at 5, but his lifetime Rep is now -3. It’s not 100% clear, but it looks like everyone in the group rolls the same dice (p. 15), so Cori rolls 4, 4, 3 and is OK, and Dmitri rolls 6, 1, 1 and is now Rep 3 – note that although a roll of 1 on a decreasing Rep d6 reduces your Rep one point, you can only lose one Rep per month.
- Arion: Rep 5 Joes Labour (Spaceship Crew), Quick Reflexes, Resilient. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep -3.
- Coriander: Rep 4 Shaker (Doctor), Free Spirit, Smooth. A3, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep -3.
- Dmitri: Rep 3 Exotic (Investigator), Logical, Smooth. BAP2, P1, melee, SBA. Lifetime Rep -3.
- Dolphin: Trader, Thrust 3, Firepower 2, Hull 3.
- Berengei, owner of the Brass Monkey in downtown New Hope City. Rep 5 Zhuh-zhuh Joes Blue Service (Storeowner), Rage.
Gorilla gorilla beringei is the scientific name for the mountain gorilla, the largest and rarest kind. There are lots of theories about the origin of the expressions involving brass monkeys. Pontus is one of the children of Gaia in Greek myth.
That took me about half an hour overall, which I expect to speed up as I learn the game. As there was no conflict, I didn’t need the battle board. The pre-rolled encounters are a definite plus point, saving a lot of time. Unlike earlier games from THW, you can tackle PEFs in sequence, in an abstract way, and avoid any you don’t fancy tangling with; that felt like cheating at first, but on reflection it’s not so different from manoeuvring around a tabletop, it’s just a lot faster in play.
I’ll have to reread the rules and see under what circumstances other group members’ attributes come into play. There’s not much point having a Face in the group if she can’t use her charisma. However, I’m happy enough with how this turned out. So far I am really enjoying the game, to the point I think I may have underrated it at 4 out of 5 in the recent review.