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Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
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Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
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Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2015 07:38:57

This book takes a look at a long-neglected aspect of Traveller which is, after all, a space exploration game: the creatures that you may encounter on other worlds. If you take the premise that life has developed on multiple planets (which given the sheer number of 'habitable' ones is pretty obvious), that life is not going to be identical wherever you go. Indeed, having exotic (to our eyes) lifeforms is part of the 'otherness' of visiting different planets during the course of your game - and if so inclined you can weave them into your plotline, anything from specimen-collecting or hunting trips to being attacked by some savage beast you didn't even know existed.

When not playing engineers or the ship's chef, I quite often play a 'xenobiologist' whose very reason for being out in the black is to study the flora and fauna on the worlds he visits. If your game is one about exploration or colonisation, you are going to need to know about the creatures on the planets you investigate. Even if your game involves trade, or war, or going for a holiday, it may become important. Robert Heinlein, in his book Tunnel in the Sky gives a wonderful example when a survival instructor says "Beware of the stobor". His students spend ages looking for a stobor before they realise that it's not an actual creature but the concept of an unknown animal that might well be dangerous that they are being warned about!

The introduction begins with a discussion of what an 'animal' is and how animals behave... they are not cute, furry, people! Animals react to circumstances, they are not sentient, and respond to scary situations with a flight or fight response rather than a reasoned one. As general points of animal psychology are discussed, ways in which to make use of them within your game are suggested in a neat and useful manner.

Next comes A Walk on the Wild Side, a chapter which provides a comprehensive animal creation system. Based on a series of tables in typical Traveller fashion, it is designed to enable you to create believeable alien animals with little effort, complete with all that you need to use them in play. Animals evolve to fill particular niches, so you need to decide early on in the process what sort of terrain your creature will be found in - this may, of course, be dictated by other aspects of the adventure you are planning. The creature will fall into one of several classifications (avian, reptile, insect, mammal, and so on), and will have appropriate modes of locomotion and behaviours to go along with it. Like many such systems, you can have hours of innocent fun just rolling up animals even if you have no specific use for them right now. Whilst this book is about animals, you do have the option of 'fungals' - now most people lump fungi in with plants rather than animals, but there is certainly biological evidence to view them as a third kingdom, and here they might be able to move around. You can use the same section if you want a few self-mobile plants... why not, this is alien biology we're talking about, after all!

Now, there are lots of interesting things you can do with the animals you create, but this being a role-playing game combat is never far away, so the next chapter is When Animals Attack. It provides numerous tables to allow you to set up animal encounters based on terrain type. Of course, these encounters do not need to involve conflict if that's not what you want. Wherever you plot takes the game, there will be some options for random encounters - or you may choose to set them up in advance as part of your story. This section is also replete with little snippets of ideas and events that add more life to the proceedings - interactions, events and so on, all helping you to create the air of 'otherness' that reminds the players that their characters are not in their home town any more. This is, due to the multitude of options, the largest part of the book.

Finally, The Galactic Menagerie provides an array of ready-designed critters for you to let loose, or at least to serve as examples for your own designs. There are also some charts to allow you to modify creatures depending on the environment in which they are to be found - so you can have a tropic rain forest or open plains version of a given animal, similar enough that the relationship can be discerned but different enough to be distinct... and of course, fitting in with wherever it is that they live.

Overall, this provides a good and comprehensive if mechanistic way to come up with animals to be found on all those worlds that are out there for your Travellers to explore. A few examples of how to take a creature from fiction and slot it in to the system, so that you can generate the essential statistics to use it in your game, would have been a useful addition... and I do wonder what they all taste like and how you cook them!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
Publisher: Mongoose
by Jacob R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/10/2012 15:38:54

Animal Encounters is a fine bestiary for Mongoose Traveller. Not only are the advertised encounters present for all sorts of worlds and habitats, but a very workable animal creation system. The creatures rolled will be unique and memorable thanks to the quirks system.

One complaint is that the animal NPCs in the encounter section do not have a size given. One is supposed to infer size from physical characteristics. The book is skimpy in the art department, but what's there isn't bad. Overall, this is a book that I definitely recommend. It takes the animal creation process from the core book and adds many options.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
Publisher: Mongoose
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/30/2011 07:16:49

Originally posted at http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/12/30/supp11animalenc/

Supplement 11 is a very traditional entry into the Traveller supplement line: take an element that exists in the core rules in a rudimentary form, and expand upon it. In this case, it takes the basic rules for animals, all manner of non-terrestrial animals, and turns out 96 pages of support for them.

Alien life forms, in the form of animals, are a staple of all forms of science fiction, but are especially important for a space opera campaign. The original Star Wars trilogy gave us riding lizards, trash compactor monsters, the yeti-like creature on Hoth, and both the rancor and the sarlacc in Jabba’s service. If you like to include such critters in your games, or want to be inspired to do so, this might be the supplement for you. (I had to go look up how to spell Sarlacc, I’ll have you know. You see what I do for you people?)

The book begins with a few pages on animal psychology, and other information on how to play the animals your characters encounter in a believable way. Then, into the meat of the information, an expanded set of rules for creating random animals. The same notions from the core rules are included and expanded upon, giving you more options, as well as providing information on how your animals could evolve additional abilities appropriate to their natures, and tables of quirks to make each encounter with a Pouncer or Hunter type subtly different.

After a brief discussion (and appropriate tables for random determination) of how to stage encounters with the creatures you’ve designed, including the range at which the attack occurs, the bulk of the mechanics are completed. The next fifty or so pages are filled instead with the most comprehensive random encounter table collection you could imagine.

Broken down first by the temperature profile of the world (Cold, Temperate or Hot), and then internally first by atmosphere type (Thin, Standard or Dense), and then further by the environment the encounter is taking place in (Woods, Hills, Plains, Riverbank, Ocean, etc), each table is a 2d6 roll to determine the kind of critter that your players will encounter, complete with special events on a natural 7, and stats rolls for the critters in question.

In addition, the next few pages include encounters in unusual locations that didn’t fit the mold of the previous tables, including Gas Giants, Asteroids (giant space worm, anyone?), Nebulae, Low Orbit and Deep Space. Very nearly every possible place that you could desire to have an encounter with a non-sentient alien species is covered.

Finally, the book closes with a few page of pre-designed animals, and a table to aid in costuming those animals based on the situations in which they are encountered. Some brief blurbs are given for the animals, to fire the GMs imagination, and help lead him or her to designing interesting, well thought-out animals of their own. The final page is a handy animal record sheet for easy reproducing.

Is this an essential supplement? No, not hardly. I’ve played Traveller for a number of years (very nearly back to it’s inception in 1977), and have never spent a great deal of time on animal encounters – which is odd, given their prevalence in science fiction, and the general, “Go out and kill some monsters.” feel of many fantasy RPGs. But if you are interested in having more animal encounters in your game, and you find the existing rules to be limiting or uninspiring, I think you’ll find that Supplement 11 gives you all the information you need to make that happen.

Happily, there are little tidbits of fluff decorating the book, often at the head of each chapter, but also associated with some of the pre-built animals near the end. They’re not specific to any one game world, and don’t assume a Third Imperium game over any other, but added a nice break and some inspiration for how you, as the GM, can bring more animal encounters into your player’s lives. This helps to counter the near-absence of art in the book – if you buy RPG books at all because of the art, this will not be an essential “must-buy” for your collection.

The real strength of the book comes from the flexibility it gives. If you’re very interested in creating specialized animals for your characters to encounter, the rules are there, and they’re very thorough. They have a kind of veracity to them, that makes one think that a zoologist was consulted during their creation. And if you don’t care that much, but think that an encounter makes sense given where your players have found themselves, there are random tables to make that a no-brainer decision – a call-back to the wandering monster tables of (some of) our youth.

I’ll simply close by saying that, having access to this information, I feel like I am more likely to use it, to include some animal encounters in my games, than I was before I read Supplement 11. A chapter of the core rules that I used to gloss over has been made much more interesting and useful because of it.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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