The Signal: an evocative one-page milieu for horror storytelling

Hey, after a lengthy hiatus from roleplaying, I'm back with another One Page Dungeon Contest submission.

The Signal is suitable for use with cosmic horror games such as Call of Cthulhu. However, with a tiny amount of effort you can re-theme it to fit just about any genre or time period. Enjoy!

Get The Signal.


Expanded edition of Amid the Reaper's Scattered Bones now available

Here's an expanded edition of my recent One Page Dungeon Contest submission, Amid the Reaper's Scattered Bones. This features the same content, but now with larger font size and much more legible maps!

Amid the Reaper's Scattered Bones - expanded edition


Amid the Reaper's Scattered Bones: an evocative one-page milieu for fantasy storytelling

Here is my 2014 One Page Dungeon Contest (1PDC) entry: Amid the Reaper's Scattered Bones. (I actually had written it for the 2013 contest, but I wasn't able to finish it up in time, so when this year's contest rolled around, I decided to go ahead and finish it up.)

The concept centers around creating a fantasy milieu using all of the figures from Reaper Miniatures' 2012 Bones Kickstarter. I managed to cram in about 90 percent of the 200+ figures from the kickstarter, including some of the larger add-ons. When opening the PDF on your screen, all of the bold-faced words are links to the appropriate miniatures on the Reaper web site. Of course, the Bones miniatures are by no means required in order to use the adventure; you can substitute other figures or simply draw inspiration from the linked images when describing them, if you like.

I had two main challenges when putting this adventure together. The first challenge was fitting the basic descriptions of what is essentially an entire campaign onto one page. Including the main village meant to serve as the players' headquarters, there are about eight different locales that serve as adventure sites. I could only devote about 6 square inches of page space to each! I decided to drive the font size down slightly below the size I would normally prefer, rather than edit out valuable details, figuring that most gamemasters actually interested in running the adventure will be able to either print it out on larger paper (or in sections) or else zoom in with their tablet or laptop during the game.

The second challenge was the artwork. I tried various styles of mapping, including traditional overhead map, isometric map, and pictorial representations. Given more time and energy, I would probably have done the entire map in pictorial representations on a larger scale, but there just wasn't time to draw all of the locations, and to do them justice I would have needed to devote more of the cramped space on the page to the imagery.

The obvious answer to both challenges would have been to separate each locale (map and text) as its own one-page dungeon. But then it wouldn't fit as a cohesive entry into the 1PDC, so that would have defeated the purpose. Perhaps in the future, I'll go ahead and separate them out, flesh out some more details, and upload them here. We'll see.


A Reign Unmade

An ambassador who claimed to represent the “Benevolent Brotherhood of the Scarlet Sign,” resplendent in his red-hooded robe, stood before the court of Jeon II and demanded that the Sea Princes submit to his terms or be destroyed. When the assembled lords mocked him, the emissary presented a list of 30 nobles. All save three were dead by morning.
Soon red-sailed ships were unloading armies of savage soldier-thralls led by golden-mailed knights and a caste of pseudo-priestly “shepherds” in red robes. Some of the princedoms resisted the incursion, but within a fortnight, the vast majority of the Hold of the Sea Princes belonged to the Great and Hidden Empire of the Scarlet Brotherhood.
Yet rumours circulate that the Scarlet Brothers have not come to these shores for mere conquest, but rather for some more mystical purpose. Spies have reported that the Brotherhood has already unoerthed a handful of powerful artifacts from various ruins on the edges of the Hold.
With the land now firmly under their iron regime, who can possibly uncover the wicked scheme of the Scarlet Brotherhood and put a stop to it?

A Reign Unmade is a high-level D&D campaign set in the World of Greyhawk. Well, I call it a campaign, but really it’s a loosely-connected series of monthly games. Each session is a self-contained story, so you are free to drop in and out as your schedule allows.
And speaking of schedules, A Reign Unmade is hosted in Greenfield, Ohio, at 10 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month, beginning January 2014.
As far as rules go, we’ll use a simplified version of 4th edition D&D. Stats for all characters will be pre-made, so don’t worry about that part. Just add a name and some personality, and you’re good to go! You can even re-theme your character's powers to fit whatever concept you have in mind. Also, you can play the same character every month, if you like, or play a different one each time; it’s up to you.

Want to play? Participation is by invitation only, but I can’t invite you if I don’t know you, so drop me a line at ironregime@yahoo.com and tell me about yourself!


Robotic Systems

In a typical game, PCs would gain additional powers or items as a form of advancement. Character advancement in Classic Traveller is not as robustly defined; instead such advancement often takes non-traditional forms such as knowledge, connections, resources, and allies.

In the second session of my playtest for Crime & Punishment, I wanted to give the players some sense of advancement and empowerment, so most of them gained command of some NPC allies they could use for a large battle. 

I didn't want to leave out the player who had the computer whiz PC, so instead of minions to command, he gained the ability to use his hand comp to control various robotic systems in each locale the players visited. This played out very nicely. (In 4th edition D&D terms, it was like giving a player control of various terrain powers in each encounter location.)

Below are some of my notes about a few of those systems.

Lilypad water cannon
pindle-mounted remote control fire suppressor
Weight 122kg, armor as mesh, HP 11 (breaks down at 4)
Equipment: rotating spindle, water hose and nozzle
Computer 7+ to issue commands (+1 difficulty per extra command attempted):
  - turn water on/off (A hit deals no damage but pushes target 1.5m per level of success, i.e. 1 square per point the roll is above 8)
  - set water velocity
  - rotate and/or elevate

Lilypad cargo crane
enormous remote control swing-arm with chain and hook       
Weight 24 metric tons, armor as combat suit, HP 521 (breaks down at 260)
Equipment: 15m crane arm, 100m chain, 1-ton pincer hook
Computer 8+ to issue commands (+1 difficulty per extra command attempted):
  - swing arm (speed 2, damage 4D on a hit)
  - raise/lower chain (speed 2, lift limit 10 metric tons, damage 4D on a hit)
  - open/close hook (damage 10D on a hit)

Research Station exploratory robot
man-sized underwater robot               
Weight 400kg, armor as combat suit, HP 22 (breaks down at 13)
Equipment: searchlights, two robotic arms, sample collection tray
Computer 9+ to issue commands (+1 difficulty per extra command attempted):
  - move (speed 4 on land using tracks, speed 8 underwater using fans)
  - manipulate arm (damage 3D on a hit)
  - open/close collection tray
  - turn searchlight on/off
Research Station air lock iris valve
3m-wide water-tight circular apertures                   
Weight 400kg, armor as combat suit, HP 49 (breaks down at 25)
Equipment: iris valve doorway
Computer 10+ to issue commands:
  - open/close (damage 5D if safety sensor is turned off and valve is closed on someone)
  - lock/unlock
  - turn safety sensor on/off
Notes: Iris valves equipped with xenon-sensor panels cannot be remotely controlled.

Typical denizens

Here are some Classic Traveller stats for typical nameless people who might be encountered on Dostoevsky.

Pteragrebcani citizen - UPP 889726
Skills: Gambling-1, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Body pistol, Cr 1050

Aquapad farmhand - UPP 968666
Skills: Brawling-1, Fwd Observer-1, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Rifle, cargo hook, jack, Cr 5000

Kizakhistani mafia thug - UPP 767543
Skills: Brawling-1, Gun Combat-1, Streetwise-1, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Auto pistol, baton, jack, Cr 0

Kizakhistani hitman - UPP 898764
Skills: Blade combat-1, Brawling-1, Gun combat-2
Possessions: Auto rifle w/electronic sights, blade, cloth, Middle Passage, Cr 0

Pteragreb policeman - UPP 879656
Skills: Brawling-1, Ground Vehicle-1, Gun Combat-1, Medical-1, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Auto rifle, Auto pistol, baton, cloth, badge, Cr 0

Pteragreb SWAT team member - UPP 979786
Skills: Blade combat-1, Brawling-1, Ground Vehicle-1, Gun combat-2, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Auto rifle w/electronic sights, baton, blade, combat armor, riot shield, badge, Cr 400

Research station security guard - UPP A8A846
Skills: Blade combat-1, Brawling-1, Gun Combat-1, Tactics-1, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Laser rifle (tuned to blue-green spectrum for use underwater), cutlass, high-pressure diving suit (as ablat w/psionic shield helmet), Cr 2k


Here are some non-player characters who might be encountered on Dostoevsky/Dpres in the Crime & Punishment scenario. Classic Traveller statistics are provided. If I get ambitious, I'll post stats for other systems.

Oskar Rysmsen - UPP 773876
Male, human, age 22. Student researcher from Forandin/Yggdrasil.
Skills: Computer-2, Ground Vehicle-1, Science-1
Possessions: High Passage, TL11 hand comp, Cr 0
Personality: Plagued by guilt. Constantly nervous.
Notes: See the original Crime & Punishment PDF for details.

Dr. Ivvdris Maz'ar - UPP 374B78
Female, human, Age 34. Chief scientist at Research Station Psi.
Skills: Admin-2, Computer-1, Grav Vehicle-1, Gun Combat-1, Leader-1, Science-3, Vacc Suit-1, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Revolver, cutlass (if at station), psionic shield helmet, Cr 2k on person (worth Cr 55k)
Personality: Amorous, depraved.
Notes: See the original Crime & Punishment PDF for details.

Roi Scunby - UPP 5A7B65
Male, human, age 34. Ex-guard.
Skills: Brawling-1, Bribery-1, Computer-1, Electronics-1, Forgery-1, Gun Combat-1, Jack-of-all-Trades-2, Navigation-1, Pilot-1, Streetwise-2, Vacc Suit-1
Possessions: Body pistol, dagger, rifle with electronic sights (outside of Pteragreb), Cr 1k on person (worth Cr 40k)
Personality: Paranoid. Speaks softly and conspiratorially. Glances around a lot.
Notes: See the original Crime & Punishment PDF for details.

Vrk Wullack - UPP B7B372
Male, Vargr, age 40. Proprietor of the starport bar Food Drinks Grls.
Skills: Blade Combat-2, Brawling-1, Gun Combat-1, Gunnery-1, Steward-1, Streetwise-1
Possessions: Shotgun, cutlass, Low Passage, Cr 2k on hand (worth Cr 50k)

Ysona - UPP 3ABB62
Female, human, age 19. Religious figurehead and prostitute.
Skills: Blade Combat-1, Steward-3, Streetwise-2.
Possessions: Blade, Cr1k on hand (worth Cr 80k)
Notes: Ysona was born with mind-reading ability as an effect of the Crystalline Vortex. She is the centerpiece of the Third Eye, a morally questionable house of worship in Wintermere. Here she holds court, dispensing holy wisdom and carnal pleasures alike to parishioners who donate to the church.

Michof Jarrell - UPP 6B97A8
Male, human, age 40. Chief administrator of civil security for the Oligarchy of Yazand.
Skills: Admin-2, Bribery-1, Grav Vehicle-1, Leader-1, Steward-1, Streetwise-1, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Auto pistol, Low Passage, Middle Passage, Expensive Watch, Cr 1k on hand (worth Cr 40k)
Personality: Michof carefully cultivates an image of a loyal but ineffectual bureaucrat, but in reality he is a devious traitor on the side of the Kizakhistanis, awaiting his chance to turn the tables against his rich and condescending employers. His office is on Floor Seven of Castel Square.

Mornnoth Ullest'ar - UPP 99C999
Head of Security at Imperial Research Station Psi.
Skills: Blade combat-2, Brawling-1, Computer-1, Electronics-1, Gun Combat-1, Leader-2, Tactics-2, Watercraft-1
Possessions: Revolver, cutlass, cloth, psionic shield helmet, Cr 5k

Arness MacKaig - UPP 978653
Male, human, age 26. GedCo loadmaster on the Tova Jerome.
Skills: Bribery-1, Blade Combat-1, Gun Combat-1, Mechanical-1, Pilot-1, Science-1
Possessions: Blade, revolver, Cr 5k
Notes: Arness works the black market on the side.            

Toberavon Ossrol - UPP 5557B9
Male, human, age 36. DOS/D Port Warden
Skills: Administration-1, Ships Boat-1, Steward-1
Possessions: High Passage, Low Passage, Cr 500 on hand (worth Cr 40k)

Kizyl Karsdin - UPP 588855
Male, human, age 54. Kizakhistani mafioso
Skills: Admin-1, Bribery-2, Gambling-2, Gun Combat-1, Steward-1, Streetwise-1, Tactics-1
Possessions: Gun, High Passage, Cr 4k on hand (worth Cr 150k)
Notes: Kizyl was recently arrested, but he expects to be extradited back to Kizakhistan to receive a warm welcome.

Zintrop Kjelram - UPP 349AAA
Human, age 68. Oligarch, despicable rich lawyer.
Skills: Administration-3, Bribery-1, Gun Combat-1, Leader-1, Steward-3, Watercaft-2
Possessions: Low Passage, Watch, Cr 5k on hand (worth MCr 2)

Sothol Marbil'ar - UPP 323759
Human, age 58. Oligarch, head of local GeDCo affiliate
Skills: Admin-2, Bribery-2, Blade Combat-1, Computer-1, Gambling-1, Gun Combat-1, Jack-of-all-Trades-1, Leader-1, Vacc Suit-1
Possessions: High Passage x2, Cr 6k on hand (worth MCr 3)

Taavo Adli - UPP 764547
Human, age 36. Curio dealer and amateur archeologist
Skills: Admin-1, Blade Combat-1, Bribery-1, Computer-1, Medical-1
Possessions: Middle Passage, Cr 1k
Notes: Taavo sells xenocultural artefacts, either legally or on the black market. His shop is near the docks in Pteragreb.

Zane Maz'ar - UPP 748978
Male, human, age 36. Associate scientist married to Ivvdris Maz'ar.
Skills: Computer-1, Science-2

Tayna Brost'ar - UPP 589776
Female, human, age 22. Student researcher at Imperial Research Station Psi.
Skills: Computer-1, Science-1, Steward-1

Dr. Lembly Unction - UPP 68B788
Doctor at Ptera Uni Medicenter who also serves as coroner for Pteragreb authorities
Skills: Medical-2
Possessions: Middle Passage, Cr 500 on hand (worth Cr 60k)


Crime & Punishment, playtest session 1

A couple weeks ago I ran the first of a two-part playtest of the Crime & Punishment setting using Classic Traveller rules. Here is chapter one of the novelization. (Referees are welcome to mine this fiction for read-aloud text, plot ideas, etc.)

Chapter One
     The shuddering of the ship's bulkhead was Alion Nolrante's first clue that he had nearly arrived at his destination. The free trader on which he had booked middle passage dropped out of jump-space on day 203 of the year 1105 (by the Third Imperium calendar) and began manueovering toward the system's only inhabited planet, a blue and white speck barely visible in the brilliant glare of the class F4 star.
     Alion could barely contain his joy. After several weeks with the space-weary crew of the old GeDCo freighter called the Tova Jerome, Alion was eager for younger, less brutish company. He hoped accepting graduate work at this far-flung Imperial research station hadn't been a mistake.
     Dostoevsky was an insignificant world somewhat smaller than Earth occupying a barren pocket of empty space in the Dpres subsector of the Trojan Reaches, beyond the fringe of Imperial space. Year-round cold and an oxygen-rich atmosphere forced its two million miserable inhabitants to wear protective gear and filter masks whenever they ventured out of their enviro-regulated enclosures. Four-fifths of the planet's surface was water, and much of it locked in extensive ice caps. Four small continents were dominated by glaciers and permafrost.
     The planet had no mineral wealth; the only reason colonisation of the icy world took root was the suitability of the local flora and fauna for harvesting and export to nearby food-poor worlds. In the decades and centuries following its first survey, Dostoevsky had seen its share of progress, first as a corporate outpost, then settlement by colonists, and growth of a viable population. After this came the painful process of organising a planetary government, rampant corruption, splintering political interests., civil war, and several major and minor conflicts thereafter.
     Alion knew none of that history; he knew only that Imperial Research Station Psi had recently been moved here, and securing a spot as a research student here was his last hope for future work with the Imperial Science Foundation.
     Alion was a slight young man of Vilani heritage, 26 standard years of age. Those who knew him would say that his knowledge of computers was his greatest asset, but somewhere within him was a power greater still, though it had yet to fully awaken.
     The free trader entered the atmosphere and slowed to a graceless touchdown at a spaceport built on an icy shelf sandwiched between a sharp ridge of snow-covered hills and a sea the color of a moonless night. It's official designation in the sector data files was DOS/D, which the locals pronounced "dosed," and for such a small port, it was impressively well equipped, if grimy and unorganized.
     DOS/D was situated on the outskirts of Pteragreb, the planet's largest city (or to be more accurate, the city grew up next to the starport) and the capital of the world's most populous nation, Yazand.
     Culturally and economically, Pteragreb was the link to the wider universe and the planet's hub for trade; agricultural products from nearby tundra farms and aquaculture pads were brought here for export on the GeDCo affiliate network, while industrial and technological goods were imported at exhorbitant rates. Physically, the city was a sprawling jumble of ugly steel and reprocessed stone buildings connected by an aging network of half-buried tubes.
     It was afternoon local time when Alion disembarked from the Tova Jerome with his baggage and headed for DOS/D Customs.
     There he met a sober and unimposing official named Toberavon Ossrol, the port warden. Under an agreement between the Imperium, the Oligarchy of Yazand and the local affiliate of GeDCo, DOS/D was treated as an extraterritorial enclave under Imperial jurisdiction. Even so, the Imperium itself had no military or scout presence here and relied largely on GeDCo corporate security for enforcement.
     Warden Ossrol cleared his throat and began speaking as if to a crowd of listeners, even though only Alion stood before him.
     "Welcome, all, to Dostoevsky/Dpres Starport, Protectorate Number TRD-1108 of the Third Imperium. Please empty all containers and place all possessions on the conveyor. If a customs officer provides further guidance, you must follow those instructions accordingly. Failure to do so may result in detention and/or prosecution under Imperium Starport Statutes."
     Alion set his luggage onto the conveyor belt in front of a bored customs officer, who seemed to take no notice as it slid by.
     "The displays behind me summarize the laws and regulations of the Oligarchy of Yazand." He motioned to an electronic billboard covered in tiny words, some flashing different colours. "You will note the section on prohibited and regulated substances, technologies, and information. If have any of these items, you may declare them at this time."
     Alion mumbled something that went unacknowledged.
     "Beyond the blue-designated territorial markings surrounding the port facility is Pteragreb and the Oligarchy of Yazand, an independent state outside Imperial jurisdiction. The Law Level of this locale as rated on the Hochstetler-Barett scale is a three."
     Ossrol continued on in this manner for several more minutes, pontificating on the various ways he could not help if misfortune struck a hapless visitor while outside of DOS/D. When he was finished and the customs officials were satisfied that Alion had nothing worth making a fuss over, he was directed to follow a series of white lighted arrows set into the floor tiles, which led out into the maze of access tunnels, directional signs, flashing advertisements, and lean-faced vagrants clustered at the edge of the starport.
     "Cr100k by end of week or we slit your throat." So read the note pinned to the silicon door panel with a rusty knife. It was one of many threats Ralvonse of Torrence had received, though it seemed decidedly more serious this time, since it demonstrated that they now knew where he lived. That thought only made the constant migraine he had developed over the past few months throb even more.
     "They" were the Kizakhistani mafia, criminals who called their piratical rule a government. Kizakhistan and Yazand had fought several wars, and although there existed an uneasy peace at the moment, there was no doubt that the mafiosos and oligarchs would find something new to squabble over soon.
     For his part, Ralvonse had cheated the Kizakhistanis out of a large sum of money on a weapons deal two months earlier. He'd been dodging goons ever since, buying time while looking for a way to pay the debt. He was acutely aware of the danger of his profession; he'd lost his right eye escaping from an ambush by Ir'abian zealots who were outbid on some of Ralvonse's goods a few years back.
     Ralvonse was a middle man, trading in items that needed to get on or off world without going through the official channels. Profits were thin, though he kept hopinh for a score big enough to lift him out of Wintermere, the crowded slums of Pteragreb, massive interconnected buildings filled with refuse, neon, noise, and huddled masses yearning to breathe anything but the stale, stinking air.
     Half of Pteragreb were holed up here, drowning in an endless miasma of crime, violence, addiction, and depression. In their insurmountable poverty, the populace turned to such morose proclivities to . Lately blood sports had been popular, encouraged by the oligarchs as a sordid diversion from the dismal reality in which they wallowed.
     Ralvonse, on the other hand, was a survivor, a self-actualizing optimist. Today was another day he was still alive, another opportunity to strike it rich. He was also something of a jack-of-all-trades, having picked up all sorts of interesting knowledge and skills in his short three-decade life.
     He hadn't fit in well on his homeworld, Torrence, a more populous world a few parsecs away on the Dpres trade route. The quasi-religious traditions of the society were smothering him. So as a teen he had signed on to work the tundra farms of Dostoevsky. It all seemed gloriously idealistic at the time: freedom, a new life, a home, the joy of harvesting the land.
     Disillusionment had set in nearly as soon as he had arrived on the planet. There was no freedom to be won through work, no life to build through shared toil. The farms were factories, harsh and hardening. Since then, he had determined to make his own destiny and never again be sold the false dreams of others.
     Ralvonse rubbed his free hand over his bald head, trying to smooth away the incurable pain within. When that didn't work (and he knew it wouldn't), he crumpled the note and threw it in the corner. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and headed away from Rat's Nest, the little barrio in which he lived, one of the dirtier corners of an especially filthy part of Wintermere. He stayed alert for thugs and thieves as he navigated through the maze of corridors and shanty-town galleries to the Refineries, and past them to the long, wide parallel tunnels that led to DOS/D.
     Pteragreb's tunnel network was composed mainly of trenches dug into the frozen soil, lined with processed stone slabs, then topped with a semi-cylinder of thick, clear plastic. On the dingy walls grew a tangle of pipes, panels, and wiring like a rampant poison ivy. Slow leaks, unhealthy smells, and flickering or non-existant lighting were their main features. The ice and snow outside drifted over the ceilings in most places, so that even in the daytime the tunnels were dim and claustrophobic. Every kilometer or so, travellers passed through iris valves meant to seal off sections of tunnel in the event of atmospheric breaches or other trouble.
     At the starport, Ralvonse slipped through a little-used man-gate whose access panel had long since ceased to function; the GeDCo facility manager obviously cared more about lining his pockets with company money than spending it on repairs.
     Once inside, he began to walk the entire length of the cargo causeway, until he spotted his quarry, a steam-enshrouded free trader. The aged freighter Tova Jerome had arrived only two days late this time. A crew of slow-moving service-workers were fastening hoses and wires to the hull, hauling freight from the cargo door, and dragging off bits of outer plating that had sustained damage since its last visit to a repair facility.
     Ralvonse leaned against the wall until the process of unloading and reloading was complete. When the activity around the ship died down, the GeDCo loadmaster who had been supervising the work noticed Ralvonse and walked over to him.
     "You still livin'?" he chuckled with mock surprise.
     "You call this living?" shot back Ralvonse. They shook hands. "Got anything for me, Arness?"
     Arness MacKaig was a hefty Swordworlder with a bushy black beard and steel-blue eyes. As a GeDCo loadmaster, he was responsible for ensuring that all the freight was properly loaded, balanced, and accounted for. It also meant he could ensure that a few extra items made on or off the freighter without the corresponding RFID signatures showing up on the manifests.
     "This is for Vrk," said Arness, producing a three-kilo package from the inside of his bulky uniform.
     "Thank you," responded Ralvonse as he tucked the package discreetly under his arms and turned to leave. "A pleasure doing business with you."
     Arness cleared his throat. "You seem to have forgotten our arrangement, laddie. Three hundred on delivery, it was."
     Ralvonse spun back around to face Arness. "Thank you for reminding me!" He reluctantly slipped some Cr50 cards out of their hiding place in the lining of his coat and palmed them off to the crooked loadmaster with an apologetic handshake.
     Arness winked. "If you've any gifts for your off-world 'relatives,' come see me. I'm here for two days local time."
     Castel Square was the tallest structure in Pteragreb, rising an impressive quarter of a kilometer into the sky, or about 80 storeys, on the other side of the city from DOS/D. Its footprint would have covered twenty blocks in a normal city. Despite its name, however, it was rectangular in shape rather than square.
     As the seat of power for the government, it was fitting that Castel Square was surrounded by security apparati. Connected to the northeastern corner of Castel Square was the Pteragrebcani Civil Police Headquarters, a three-story circular bunker bristling with antennae and sensor stalks. Outside the opposite corner was one of the country's main military base.
     On the lower floors of Castel Square, vendors jostled for space among the bland government edifaces that marked the entrances to the mazes of bureaucracy that filtered upward to higher floors, among which were supposedly hidden the magnificent suites of the oligarchs, or so went the rumours.
     From the outside, the office of Chief Administrator Michoff Jarell on the seventh floor of Castel Square looked exactly like two dozen others in those twisting halls.
     Inside it was very clean, but in a sterile, industrial sort of way. Not only was there no clutter or paperwork, but there were very few personal effects and nothing at all of a decorative nature, unless you counted a bright green litre-bottle of cabbage-whiskey and a crystal tumbler.
     Into this cube-shaped soulless vacuum walked Inspector Ward Vamendar, special investigator for the Pteragrebcani Civil Police. The door slid closed behind him, and he stood at ease, waiting to be recognized.
     Ward had served two terms in the Yazander army and been discharged at the rank of Captain. He had been lean as a lion and twice as quick back then, but since joining the civil police he had allowed his body to carry a few extra pounds. He remained clean-shaven and well groomed, however. His manners were business-like, overly formal, unsoftened by sentiment, perhaps because he'd never developed any closed relationships or started a family.
     Like Texas Rangers in the Old West, police inspectors in Pteragreb were few in number but given a lot of leeway to do their job. Ward was one of two inspectors on the homicide beat.
     Chief Administrator Michoff Jarell leaned sideways in his chair, staring at the ornately shaped litre-bottle he had been gradually emptying for the past couple hours. His coat jacket was carelessly unbuttoned, and his toupee askew. The lids of his leaden eyes drooped slightly behind the wire spectacles he wore.
     "You'll want some of this." Jarell poured clear liquid from the bottle into the glass he'd been using, and set the drink out at arm's length toward Ward, who obediently took it.
     "I feel obligated to inform you," said the official, the words billowing out of him like belches of volcanic gas, "that the extradition of Kizyl Karsdin was approved. He is to be returned to Kizakhistan for trial."
     Ward's eyes narrowed. Karsdin was one of the highest ranking mafiosos ever captured, and Ward had been the one who had collared him on charges of murder and conspiracy. Now he was to be released to his homeland, undoubtedly to a hero's welcome; the 'trial' Jarell mentioned was a joke.
     "Why are they letting him go?" asked Ward.
     "It's all political, Ward. You know that." Jarell took another drink. "They get the old man, and we get a Yazander spy back in exchange."
     As the chief administrator spoke, Ward thought he could see movement beneath the man's flesh, as if something small were crawling just beneath the skin of his neck, up over the ridge of his jaw, and disappearing behind his ear. Ward blinked and focused harder on the texture of Jarell's skin to see if he could confirm what he thought he had seen.
     As unsettling as this experience was, Ward did not immediately over-react. This wasn't the first time he'd witnessed the strange subdermal movement; he'd seen it in three or four other people in the last few months. In each case Ward had been unable to find out exactly what it was he thought he had seen. But the sightings were similar enough to make him genuinely worry. Was this some new parasite? A disease? Or was he simply letting the stress of his job take its toll on his sanity?
     Suddenly he realised that Jarell was no longer speaking, so he blurted out a question to cover for his inattention. "When are they going to pick him up? Or are we going to send him?"
     "We'll likely make the exchange in neutral waters. Probably some time in the next week."
     "You know how invested I am in this. I'd happily volunteer for the detail that escorts him out of Yazand."
     "Your concern is appreciated. If anything should happen to Mr. Karsdin while he is in our care, that would be . . . regrettable. And likewise if harm should come to my finest inspector," he muttered darkly, "that too would be regrettable." He raised his glass. "Salut."
     Ward lifted his own glass slightly in acknowledgement, emptied it, and set it down on the chief administrator's desk. He stared at Jarell again, hoping to see the movement he had seen earlier, but no luck.
     "Is there anything else, sir?"
     "That will be all, Ward."

Encounters in the Wan Sea

Here are some denizens of Dostoevsky suitable for use with Classic Traveller rules.

enormous ocean-going grazer

Weight 24 metric tons, unarmored
Attack on 8+, flee on 2+, Speed 24, HP 51, Teeth 6D
Notes: Bandonsaurs appear as huge eels with distended jaws. They travel the Wan Sea in schools of 6-12, scooping their way through massive fields of giant jellyfish. Sometimes they mistake small aquatic vehicles (especially bathyspheres) for food, as they are about the same size and shape as their usual prey.
man-sized tundra-dwelling carnivore
Weight 400kg, unarmored
Attack on 6+, flee on 5+, Speed 8,
HP 22, Bite 4D
Notes: Kuposarun are man-size ape-like creatures with thick coats of shaggy white fur native to the wilds of Kizakhistan. Instead of having a mouth in the place one would expect, theirs are located in their chests, and their typical hunting tactic is to grapple and hold a target using all of their limbs, then chew through hide, clothing, and armor while their victim is held immobile. Kuposarun are sometimes captured by the Kizakhistanis and held in dual-compartment cages; if desperate measures are called for, a Kizakhistani will released a captive Kuposarun from one side of the cage while taking refuge from the rampaging beast in the other side. 

psionic-using sea-cave-dwelling siren
Weight 400kg, unarmored
Attack if prey comes within range, flee* on 6+, HP 19, Teeth 4D
Scuradon have evolved in the presence of the Crystalline Vortex, developing psionic powers as a result. When prey comes within medium range of an awaiting scuradon, this bottom-dwelling aquatic centipede uses its telepathy to mind-read the target (it must throw above the target's INT to succeed), then uses psionic camouflage to make the target see a member of its own race. Then it simply tries to lure the target toward its sea cave using simple rhythmic motion, which may appear to the observer as waving or struggling. If attacked, the scuradon will attempt to use its psionic camouflage power to make its attacker see surrounding rocks (thus effectively disappearing), instead of actually fleeing trouble, since it is very slow moving. 

small psionic-using deep sea eater
Weight 12kg, armor as jack
Attack on 5+, flee on 9+, Speed 8, HP 11, Claws 1D
Notes: Thulltak look like weird little shrimp. They have dwelt in the deepest recesses of the Wan Sea for millennia, slowly evolving psionic powers under the influence of the Crystalline Vortex. Each round that a creature spends within close range of one or more Thulltaks, it must throw 8+ (using INT as a modifier) or become weakened (as per the combat rules). Every 10 Thulltaks present add -1 DM to the roll.

Below are traditional encounter tables for the Wan Sea.

TERRAIN: Shallows                                           Dostoevsky B676673-A
Die Animal                Weight   Hits  Armor      Wounds & Weapons      Action
  2  3 Reducer            1600kg  29/10  jack       4 hooves, teeth       A7F5S1
  3  3 Eater               100kg   21/7  none         claws               A1F8S1
  4  6 Intimidator        1600kg  34/14  none       4 horns, teeth        A5F7S1
  5  3 Hunter              400kg  22/13  none       2 thrasher            A6F5S1
  6  2 Grazer             1600kg  27/12  none       4 horns               A4F4S4
  7 11 Grazer              200kg  22/10  jack       1 thrasher            A4F5S2
  8  1 Grazer              800kg   25/7  jack       3 teeth               A7F5S3
  9  1 Killer              400kg  22/11  none       2 claws, teeth        A2F4S3
 10  Special event to be administered by the referee.
 11  1 Killer             3200kg  25/11  jack       5 stinger             A3F9S3
 12  1 Killer             3200kg  36/12  jack       5 stinger             A2F6S2

TERRAIN: Depths                                             Dostoevsky B676673-A
Die Animal                Weight   Hits  Armor      Wounds & Weapons      Action
  2  1 Reducer             100kg   21/7  none         claws, teeth        A8F6S1
  3  1 Gatherer            200kg  21/14  jack       1 stinger             A7F4S1
  4  1 Hijacker            400kg  24/14  jack       2 hooves, teeth       A4F4S1
  5  5 Hunter             3200kg  30/18  none       5 claws +1            A2F6S1
  6  1 Grazer              800kg  27/13  none       3 thrasher            A7F1S3
  7  1 Grazer              200kg  19/12  none       1 horns, teeth        A7F3S2
  8  9 Grazer            24000kg  51/23  none      x3 teeth               A8F2S4
  9  1 Chaser              800kg  21/12  jack       3 claws +1, teeth +1  A0F6S3
 10  Special event to be administered by the referee.
 11  5 Chaser              100kg  18/11  none         claws +1, teeth +1  A0F5S2
 12 11 Chaser              400kg  23/10  none       2 as blade            A0F6S2

TERRAIN: Seacave                                            Dostoevsky B676673-A
Die Animal                Weight   Hits  Armor      Wounds & Weapons      Action
  2  5 Carrion-eater       100kg   16/9  none         teeth               A9F3S3
  3  3 Eater               400kg   18/9  none       2 claws               A3F9S1
  4  5 Carrion-eater        50kg  15/11  none         hooves              A5F7S1
  5  1 Gatherer            800kg   9/12  jack       3 claws               A4F4S1
  6  1 Filter               25kg    9/7  none         thrasher            A0F6S0
  7  5 Intermittent         25kg   12/7  jack         hooves, horns       A9F7S1
  8  1 Intermittent        100kg  26/10  none         hooves, horns       A6F5S1
  9  1 Pouncer             200kg  17/16  jack       1 claws +1, teeth +1  A0F0S1
 10  Special event to be administered by the referee.
 11  1 Pouncer             800kg   19/9  none       3 claws, teeth        A0F0S1
 12  8 Chaser              400kg   24/9  none       2 teeth +1            A0F5S2

TERRAIN: Bottom                                             Dostoevsky B676673-A
Die Animal                Weight   Hits  Armor      Wounds & Weapons      Action
  2  3 Reducer             100kg   25/6  none         claws               A9F4S1
  3  1 Gatherer             25kg   12/7  none         claws, teeth        A8F4S3
  4  7 Carrion-eater        25kg   14/4  none         teeth               A7F5S1
  5  5 Eater                12kg   11/4  jack         claws               A5F9S1
  6  1 Intermittent       1600kg   26/8  none       4 claws, teeth        A5F7S1
  7  4 Intermittent        100kg   17/5  mesh +1      hooves, teeth       A9F7S1
  8  5 Intermittent        200kg   20/7  jack       1 hooves              A6F4S1
  9  1 Trapper             800kg  25/12  jack       3 teeth +1            A0F7S0
 10  Special event to be administered by the referee.
 11  1 Pouncer             200kg   13/8  none       1 claws, teeth        A0F0S1
 12  1 Siren               400kg  19/14  none       2 teeth +1            A0F6S0

The Wan Sea

Unlabelled map of the Wan Sea
The Wan Sea is a forbidding expanse of murky water that forms the northwestern arm of Dostoevsky's largest ocean. On it float a couple dozen aquaculture pads ("lilypads" to locals), which are large, floating sea-farms that produce most of the nourishment for the planet's residents.

Most surface transport is by powered watercraft of various sizes. Knowledgeable sailors turn on their low-rad emitter to deter predators.


W1. Ox Rift is an 18km-long gash in the sea floor that constantly emits a curtain of very large oxygen bubbles that slowly rise to the surface. This is a well-known hazard avoided by locals, for the pockets of warm air can sink ships and even affect low-flying aircraft and grav vehicles.

W2. Pad 17, "best bio-weed around"

W3. Grey Void, a nutrient-poor zone. Pad farmers know better than to try farming here.

W4. Glacier Reach, a perilous ice floe

W5. The Mazre Snake, a surprisingly strong north-south current

W6. Akyon Abyss, an undersea canyon of unknown depth


Unlabelled map of Pteragreb
Pteragreb (N32° W0°) is a jumbled cluster of ugly reprocessed-stone buildings on the muddy coast of the Wan Sea. It is the capital of the Oligarchy of Yazand, and is the most populous and advanced settlement on Dostoevsky.

Pteragreb is a hub of agricultural trade from nearby tundra farms and aquaculture pads.

In their insurmountable poverty, residents of Pteragreb turn to morose proclivities and sordid diversions, unaware their disaffection is magnified by the nearby Crystalline Vortex. Gambling, carousing, and violent sport are favoured pastimes.

Environmental Effects on Dostoevsky

If someone is outside of enviro-controlled buildings or vehicles on the planet's surface without a functioning filter mask, they will experience oxygen toxicity and die in a few minutes.

After 1D rounds of exposure (with no game effects), the person begins having breathing trouble; each round thereafter, throw END or less on 2D or suffer END loss equal to the amount by which the roll was missed. If the individual has managed to survive for 20 rounds, subsequent END throws are at DM +2.

During any round on which the END roll is missed, the person undergoes convulsions and can take no actions.

At half END, the victim is considered Weakened, making him or her unable to run, suffering the usual penalty in physical combat, and able to take only 1 action per round. At 0 END, the person falls unconscious and will lose 1 point from either STR or DEX each round thereafter until death results.

If someone is outside of enviro-controlled buildings or vehicles on the planet's surface, throw END or less each hour with the following DMs:
+1 at night
-1 at day
+0 at dawn or dusk
+2 if wearing no cold weather clothing
+0 with makeshift cold weather clothing
-2 if wearing Dostoevski cold weather clothing
+2 if wet or windy
+4 if immersed in water
-1 if walking or moderate activity
-3 if running, lifting, or heavy activity

Each failure results in 1D END loss (stun damage). At 0 END, the victim is unconscious, but rolls continue each hour, with further damage going to STR or DEX.

If someone is exposed to the full pressure of the ocean depths outside the Station, they take 1D damage to a random characteristic each round, no save.

Library Data

Dostoevsky (0308) B676673-A. Dostoevsky is a medium-sized habitable planet (9,600 km diameter) in the Dpres subsector [map] of the Trojan Reaches. It orbits a class F4 D star. The system contains no gas giants and two asteroid belts.

The surface of the planet is 79% water. Four land masses are covered in varying amounts of glaciation. The equatorial mean temperature of -15 degrees Celsius and an oxygen-rich atmosphere force residents to wear cold weather gear and filter masks while outside of environmentally controlled structures.

The planet's population of 2 million is distributed between three governments. The most populous of these is the Oligarchy of Yazand (cap: Pteragreb), a state with relatively high technology and friendly to Imperial interests. It is the location of an Imperial research station investigating an underwater Ancient site. The starport (reference code DOS/D) at Pteragreb is of good quality, with small craft shipyard capability, complete overhaul facilities, and refined fuel available. A geosynchronous signal station hovers above.

In general, the law level on the planet is low. Non-military personal firearms are permitted to citizens. Portable energy weapons, explosive, and poisons are regulated. Occasional conflicts break out between the governments.

The planet is agriculturally self-sustaining thanks to numerous Thalassan-made floating aquaculture farms, but must import most manufactured goods.

[For an alternate interpretation of Dostoevsky, visit http://www.tactics-0.org/Tactics-0/2004/dostoevskyCampaignBriefing.pdf.]

Nearby Worlds of Note:
  • Caldos/Dpres (0507) B630879-6, 2 parsecs away, is a populous but low-tech world without oceans. It is non-aligned. The system contains a gas giant for refueling.
  • 291-540/Dpres (0206) CABA000-0, 2 parsecs away to spinward, is a Red Zone system. The world is completely covered in a corrosive sea of nitric acid. The class C starport there is an automated orbital facility built by the Imperium as a link on the trade route to the Florian League. A gas giant is available for refueling.
  • Asyuh/Goertel (0301) B8C32N5-9, 3 parsecs away, is the location of an outpost of the Glorious Empire, an independent and somewhat militant Aslani interplanetary government rated as an Amber Zone by the Travellers Aid Society. The planet is otherwise unremarkable.
  • Sagan/Dpres (0607) C796453-8, 3 parsecs away, has a small colony allied with the Third Imperium that serves the trade route to the Florian League. Liquid water is present, as well as a gas giant for refueling.
  • Dpres/Dpres (0105) B631689-A, 4 parsecs away to spinward, was the first human-colonized world in the subsector. It's government is an Imperial client state, and it is the site of an Imperial naval base. Liquid water is present, as is a gas giant for refueling.
  • Forandin/Yggdrasil (0706) BA89646-9, 4 parsecs away, is the nearest world of the Florian League, an interplanetary government led by randomly selected leaders through a lottery system. Forandin is almost entirely covered in water. The Florians have a military base here. A gas giant is available for refueling.
  • Gabriel/Dpres (0304) C210100-B, 4 parsecs away, was the site of an Imperial research station prior to its relocation to Dostoevsky [Third Imperium fanzine, issue 7].

Rating your effectiveness as a GM or player

A few years back I developed a comprehensive "grade card" to help me self-analyze my skills as a gamemaster and player with some degree of objectivity.

The criteria I selected was based on distilled advice from all over the web, and then refined down to a handful of core competencies that I feel are at the heart of being a good GM or player. (Yes, many of these are simple social graces. Roleplaying is primarily a social activity, and you can't succeed at it unless you are able to interact with others in a productive way.)

I'm sharing these forms with the gaming community in hopes that they will be useful, but with this disclaimer: These forms are meant as a constructive tool for self-improvement. They are not meant to demean anyone or to be used as ammunition for arguments. You can use them to rate yourself (be as honest as you can), or if you're thick-skinned, give copies to your gaming group, ask them to rate you, and compare the results.

The forms are available here. Enjoy!



Below are some Classic Traveller characters who might be found on Dostoevsky. They also are suitable for use as pregenerated PCs.

Ralvonse of Torrence        UPP 7A6856
Human, age 30. Black market fence.
AutoPistol-1, Brawling-1, Bribery-1, Cutlass-1, Electronics-1, Forgery-1, Gambling-1, Jack-of-All-Trades-1, Mechanical-1, Streetwise-1
Speaks Galanglic.
Possessions: Rifle, blade, Cr 1k on hand (worth Cr 10k)
Personality: Made irritable by a ceaseless, incurable migraine. Prefers to keep names and contacts separate; if they talked, he would be out of business.

  • Ralvonse has a dingy room in Wintermere with a secret closet (his smuggler's hideout). One of his contacts is Vrk Wullack, the Vargr proprietor of a starport bar called Food Drink Grls that he likes to use as a dead drop for information and contraband, because the starport is outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement and the fewer people who know where he lives, the better.
  • Ralvonse occasionally uses a swordworlder named Arness MacKaig as part of his black market network to get items on and off-world discretely. Arness is a loadmaster aboard the GeDCo far trader Tova Jerome.
  • Ralvonse owes Cr100,000 to Kizyl Karsdin of the Kizakhistani mafia. He's been dodging goons for a few weeks now while looking for an opportunity to repay his debt.

Inspector Ward Vamendar    UPP 786759
Human, age 32. Special investigator for Pteragreb Civil Police.
Administration-1, Air/Raft-1, Brawling-1, Computer-1, Leader-1, Revolver-1, Rifle-1, SMG-1, Tactics-1
Speaks Galanglic.
Possessions: Auto rifle w/electronic sights, revolver, baton, personal comm, Low Passage, Middle Passage, Cr 2500 on hand (worth Cr 25k).
Personality: Impersonal and business-like.
  • Ward previously served 2 terms in the Yazander army (discharged at the rank of Captain).
  • Ward reports to Chief Administrator Michof Jarrell, a vastly ineffectual bureaucrat working for the Oligarchs.
  • Ward handles homicide cases and is called to investigate any murder that occurs in Yazand.
  • Ward recently arrested Kizyl Karsdin, a high-ranking Kizakhistani mafioso, on murder and conspiracy.
  • Ward knows that both the DOS/D Starport and the Imperial Research Station are out of his jurisdiction.
  • When serious trouble arises, Ward can call in backup in the form of up to three loyal uniformed Pteragreb policemen.
  • Lately Ward has begun to notice movement beneath others' flesh.

Alion Nolrante        UPP 476898
Human, age 26. Graduate student newly arrived on Dostoevsky to work an internship at the research station.
Adminstration-2, Air/Raft-1, Brawling-1, Bribery-1, Computer-3, Dagger-1, Electronics-1, Medical-1
Speaks Galanglic.
Possessions: Blade, personal comm, Cr 2100 on hand (worth Cr 21k)
Personality: Uncertain and inexperienced, Alion treads carefully in new environments.
  • Alion may or may not be an untested psion with powerful telekinetic powers. (The Referee may either decide based on the story or use the usual rules on psionic testing.)
  • Ever since arriving on Dostoevsky, Alion began to experience vivid dreams of a very violent nature.

Jharmyrk Ahr'malkin        UPP 97B744
Aslani, age 34. Owner of Aquaculture Pad 17.
Administration-1, Blade-1, Brawling-1, Cutlass-1, Leader-1, Small Watercraft-1, Submersible-1, Survival-2, Tactics-1
Speaks Galanglic and Trokh (Aslani).
Possessions: Rifle, cutlass, High Passage, Cr 3600 on hand (worth Cr 18k)
Personality: Highly territorial in nature, especially in regard to preserving Pad 17's access to the bounty of the Wan Sea. Lately Jharmyrk has become even more paranoid than usual, suspecting everyone of working toward some end that runs counter to his own plans.
  • Jharmyrk previously served 2 terms in the marines of the Glorious Empire (to the rank of Sergeant). He may or may not be a sleeper agent for the Glorious Empire on Dostoevsky, judging the suitability of the planet for future conquest.
  • As owner of Pad 17, Jharmyrk has a TL9 steamship and eight pad farmers under his command.
Yuldor Loytni        UPP 956895
Droyne, age 30. Zealot on a pilgrimage to visit Ancients sites.
Administration-1, Air/Raft-1, Brawling-1, Carbine-1, Medical-3, Navigation-1, ShipsBoat-1, Streetwise-1, VaccSuit-1
Speaks Galanglic and Oynprith (Droyne)
Possessions: Laser rifle, battery pack, blade, Droyne armored vacc suit (as combat armor), Middle Passage, Cr 10k on hand
Personality: Violently opposed to anyone tampering with or restricting access to Ancients sites.



"All of these thinly-veiled literary references are so unoriginal," I hear you say. "You didn't even bother to hide it very well!"

Okay, so it's not subtle. Some of the ideas here were inspired--however tangentally--by Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. And very crudely implemented. That's okay. At least I'm finally putting that Liberal Arts degree to good use. Just think of it as a high-brow expansion of Appendix N.


About this Site

This web site is an online companion to Crime and Punishment, a one-page science fiction RPG scenario released for free under a Creative Commons license. The material presented here--including comments from visitors--expand that scenario greatly, but of course the referee is welcome to use as much or as little as he or she sees fit.

Why use a one-page summary for the base scenario?
The original scenario was a submission in the 2011 One Page Dungeon Contest, but from a practical standpoint, it makes a lot of sense, providing the basic concept of the adventure in a succinct format that is quick and easy to grasp and run.

Why use a web site for the expansion material?
Putting additional material on the web lets me constantly add to and update the material for the scenario, plus it allows fans to offer their own ideas and additions to the adventure.