Traveller Rule 4: Monstrous Personalities

It’s always nice when someone does your work for you. Even as I was preparing to move back to a regular schedule of posting now that the semester is over, I discovered that Jeff had very nearly taken care of Rule #4 for me. As Jeff was explaining during his post, the more detail you add to monsters the more depth your game will acquire.

This is particularly apt for Traveller as the bulk of opponents any group will encounter are going to be NPCs rather than monsters. It’s true, you can run across monstrous creatures at times, and I’ve had my fair share of fun throwing a righteously depraved, beasty at my party; however, any game that’s outside the realm of an old fashioned bug hunt will spend most its time dealing with actual people.

This is important because each of the NPCs your players are required to deal with should have their own motivations. Whether the NPCs are coming for the party or the party is coming for them, the motives that define the “bad guy” will invariably instruct you and your players in how to deal with them. For example:

Lady Astrodiddas may be out to get the party because she honestly believes they kidnapped her beloved puppy Flick-Flick.
The mad scientist who the PC’s are attempting to defeat might just be attempting to extend his life after having been diagnosed with a terminal disease.
Zhodani agents may have reason to suspect the PC’s are hiding an important psionicist in their midst.

Even if you’re playing in a true sandbox game, where you do very minimal prep time beforehand, you can easily come up with a handful of opponents to populate your upcoming games. By building them around a central motivational theme, you should be able to get a lot more mileage out of them.

The crucial idea is to use wide, varying motives to create opponents that come to life. As Jeff mentioned in his post, a troll that’s “willing to trade smoked herring for any wine or beer the party has on them” is infinitely more interesting than the typical monster. The same is true of adversaries in Traveller. With motivations and a purpose, the player’s opponents cannot only be tricky obstacles to success, but can even take on a life of their own.

2 thoughts on “Traveller Rule 4: Monstrous Personalities

  1. Yes, the more varied and detailed the encounters are, the more interesting and real they seem.

    However, don’t forget that “bugs” can also be varied.

    1. Yes, that’s very true BeRKA. I rather enjoy creating “bug” encounters where the underlying theme is a simple misunderstanding. It’s always interesting to see how PCs react to what “appears” to be a violent, nasty beast.

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