101 Lifeforms and 101 Plots

Reviewed by Nicholas HM Caldwell

As 101 Lifeforms and 101 Plots take the form of slim A5-sized booklets rather than weighty tomes, it made more sense to review both products in a double-barreled article instead of distinct articles.

101 Lifeforms is a forty-four page booklet edited by Andy Lilly and published by BITS (British Isles Traveller Support). It has the subtitle of "A selection of flora and fauna ready to crawl, fly, waddle, or stampede their way into your adventure. (Remember monsters have feelings too ...)". This supplement aims to provide the harassed Traveller referee with non-sentient creatures to add depth and realism to the biospheres of their alien worlds. A few choice references to these lifeforms during a game session will enable the referee to intimate that the unexplored world where the party has just landed teems with a myriad of species as unusual and beautiful as any to be found on Old Earth.

101 Lifeforms begins with an introduction which explains the format of the Lifeform entries and gives some general guidelines on animal behaviour and how animal abilities might be represented in terms of Traveller skills. Suggestions are also made for adapting the lifeforms to higher or lower gravity, atmosphere variations or extremes in temperature. The creatures are grouped into land-based animals, amphibians, aquatic beasts, flyers, plants and a miscellaneous collection of unusual species. Each entry has a set of Traveller statistics, a description of how the lifeform might appear to player-characters on first encounter, referee notes on details that should only be available to player-characters after a thorough database search, by questioning the locals, or (most likely) through direct and perhaps unpleasant experiences, and an indication of the lifeform's usual habitat. There are drawings of some of the more interesting creatures - however the textual descriptions are unusually effective in conjuring images of the other fauna and flora. 101 Lifeformsactually contains 102 creatures. An index, a simple system for creating encounter tables and a glossary of scientific terms completes this mini-supplement.

101 Lifeforms is ideal for Traveller referees of any vintage, and a useful source of creatures for gamemasters using other systems.

Turning to the second focus of this review, 101 Plots (written by Jo and Lesley Grant, edited by Andy Lilly, and published by BITS) is a forty-page booklet with the direct subtitle of "A useful handbook when the referee runs out ideas". In this aim, it succeeds admirably by presenting a collection of plot outlines and seeds from which full-blown scenarios can be generated. 101 Plots is designed to be used with any flavour of Traveller, but it can equally well be used in conjunction with almost any science-fiction role-playing system.

101 Plots can be divided into Patron encounters, Introductions and Notices. The 32 Patron encounters are essentially capsule scenarios with a contact point for the party and a mission to achieve. Each has up to six possible "outcomes", allowing for possible twists to the base plot. Thoughtfully these outcomes are numbered from one to six so that referees can let the dice decide the exact plot at their discretion. The fifteen Introductions present parties with situations which can lead even the most independent party into contact with interesting organisations of diverse natures.

The Notices are more concise plot ideas. A round two dozen job advertisements present opportunities for the player-characters to take up gainful employment and accrete cash, contacts and experience. These are juxtaposed with seventeen "Red Herrings", which on first inspection will appear promising to the player-characters, but will turn out to be a source of grief. In any science-fiction setting, knowledge is power. To represent this and provide a more entertaining route than simple database searches, twenty unusual information sources are given which may lead to incidents. A dozen personals to amuse and baffle the players and fifteen marginally reliable gadgets rounds out the remainder of this mini-supplement.

Those who have been counting will have realised that 101 Plots actually contains 134 plot ideas. Why are you complaining? You can never have enough plot ideas.

Summing up, this is an excellent mini-supplement which every science-fiction gamemaster should have as an emergency reserve of plot ideas.

Editor's Note

101 Lifeforms and 101 Plots are published by British Isles Traveller Support (BITS). Their contact details are as follows:
BITS
PO Box 4222,
Sawbridgeworth,
Hertsfordshire,
CM21 0DP
Great Britain
Email BITS@bits.org.uk
Web http://www.bits.org.uk/

All trademarks and copyrights are acknowledged