I want to take a break from our usual Monster Wednesday for a moment and discuss the reasons to use monsters in Traveller. In games of fantasy like D&D and Pathfinder, using monsters is fairly obvious. In cases like lions and owlbears, it is a case of survival, a man vs nature story. For orcs and goblins, they are a stand in for uncivilized humans in a non-magical world. When it comes to zombies, dragons, and devils, they represent an aspect of humanity and our fears rather than an individual human. But what about science fiction in general and Traveller in specific. How should you use them? In my opinion, Star Wars is the best place to look for how to use sci-fi monsters well.
1) Essential Part of Native Life
While the sand people would be NPC aliens, the elephants covered in rugs that they rode we’re an essential part of their life. Remember that just because you have high tech people living on a planet doesn’t mean the natives are integrated and can use the technology. Some will still use animals as a significant part of their daily life, whether for transportation, protection, or a food source. No one says that that animal has to be docile.
Suggestion: When dealing with primative life, give them some kind of animal to make their life easier.
2) Dangerous Fauna
“Nuke them from orbit; it’s the only way to be sure.” When you are colonizing a whole planet, you’ll want to eliminate the local dangerous fauna. However, if you are not a sizable government with sizable resources, you’re not going to do the job well. Take the Rebellion for example. They only had enough resources to establish a small base on Hoth. They couldn’t waste resources to eliminate all the snow creatures like the kind that got Luke. In fact, if you watch the outtakes, you’d see that one even made its way into the rebel base. Random encounter, right there.
Suggestion: Have some kind of monster spring up as random violence when you are not in a hub of civilization.
3) Cheap Short Range Vehicles
If you’ve looked in the Vehicle Handbook, you’d know that high tech vehicles are expensive. So if you are not going far, ride something there. They come so much less, especially if you are just taking them from the wild instead of buying them. Just because riding an animal is low tech doesn’t mean that the saddle has to be from another century. Not to mention, if you are in an extreme environment, like Hoth, they will probably be better adapted to the climate than your vehicles. Additionally, different cultures use animals in different ways. Some might ceremonial roles or as symbols of their people. As a final bonus, they are meat and warmth if you are stuck in a bad situation, even if you thought they smelled bad on the outside.
Suggestion: To emphasize different cultural or economic conditions, have a high tech popilation ride animals.
Having a pet adds flavor to a character. Dr Evil and his hairless cat. Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Jabba and the rancor. What does it say about Jabba that he kept a rancor? That he liked watching people being eaten right in front of him. That he wants to be feared. That he likes associating himself with powerful creatures. That he is over compensating. Probably all of the above.
Suggestion: Give a dangerous person a dangerous pet.
The Last Jedi had animal racing that the wealthy were betting on. Animal racing is a common use and can be used in your game. Animals fighting each other can also be used. Imagine how much damage the fighting animals can cause if they escape.
Suggestion: Add some flavor to a location by using animals as entertainment.
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