Daily Illuminator

July 10, 2017: Planet Mercenary

Planet Mercenary Howard Tayler, the creator of Schlock Mercenary, is now shipping the Planet Mercenary RPG. This was successfully Kickstarted in mid-2015, but if you missed the Kickstarter, you can buy a hardback here or get the PDF here.

I had a marvelous time as a player in one of the mid-stage playtests of Planet Mercenary. It was refereed by Alan Bahr, who, with Howard, created the game. I played the captain of a mercenary ship, a member of the Ob'enn race. The Ob'enn have occasionally appeared in the strip, usually as antagonists (they are about as antagonistic as you can get). So I had a starting place, a main theme if you will, and I riffed shamelessly on that as I tried to get into my character's head and do what HE would have done, and not what I would have done, with his booby-trapped mission and motley crew.

(I will now inflict my fanfic on you. Everything below about Ob'enn language and humor is totally non-canon and made up as I got into Sir's head, and not Howard's or Alan's fault at all.)

The captain goes by "Sir." This is because if his ancient and honorable name is properly pronounced in Ob'enn, a Galstandard West speaker will hear "Fuzzybutt." Sir is far too arrogant to use an alias, so he has simply decreed that he be referred to only as "Captain" or "Sir," even in the company's digital records.


Pencil sketch of our game group, by Keliana Tayler. I'm the one on the right, with the big ears.

The captain is never separated from the Golden Scepter of [Untranslatable], his heavy sniper rifle. Never. There is a hook for it in the head in his quarters and a stand beside his seat at the officer's mess. It slots into the side of his command chair and to the head of his bed. A very few of the crew are allowed to hold it for him at need, and none of them has the slightest idea what an honor that is in Ob'enn culture. His crew speculates, discreetly, about where he puts the Scepter while mating. (The answer is "Within reach.")


Weapon images by Ben McSweeny.

[Untranslatable] is not really a word that has no translation. It's simply a single word that encapsulates a rather elaborate string of rude Galstandard West nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and one propositional [sic] phrase. The Ob'enn use a lot of very specific words, like harf, that take a lot of Galstandard text to express. Harf translates quite precisely to "get in trouble by arrogantly ignoring the words of those smarter or better informed than you just to emphasize that they are your social inferiors." There is a one-word translation for harf in every ancient Ob'enn language known, because Ob'enn are like that. (So are humans, but we never boiled it down to one word.)

Sir is, by the standards of his people, highly liberal and tolerant (he works of his own volition with non-Ob'enn and sometimes takes their advice!), mild and accommodating (most cannot understand why his ears are so big), very geeky, and a bit enthusiastic about weapons of all types. By the standards of most of his crew, he is ultraconservative, sometimes racist, moderately geeky and didactic, and a frothing maniac about weapons. (And remember, his crew are mercenaries, mostly infantry. They are very, very fond of weapons. Sir thinks that as a group they show insufficient interest in the precise and specific details of how they are killing things. He's patiently – for an Ob'enn – trying to bring them along.)

Sir is no longer welcome among his people, and has no siblings left, because of a whole series of harfs by his family leaders, his immediate family, and (last and most humiliatingly) himself. He really does not want to do that again. Harfing killed everybody he cared about. He can just feel his ears shrinking every time he listens seriously to an underling, but he takes his [untranslatable] ego in hand and does it anyway. Usually. He knows he'll harf again, but not today. 

Sir collects sniper jokes - the mean kind, like "Don't run. You'll only die tired." (Oddly, that one has been verified, so far, as originating independently in 46 different cultures.) He is fond of quoting The Seventy Maxims, and also misquotes it in rhyme, which is as low-humor for Ob'enn as punning is for an Earthling.


Pencil with colors added – pre-render art by Matt Franklin. The green lines are Howard's direction for tweaking the legs.

Sir's species look like cute little koala bears. They are very definitely not. But that's how they look. And Sir, who read a lot of science fiction when he was growing up, secretly views ursumari, the uplifted Terran polar bears, as some kind of super-dangerous, future-evolved, scary-fascinating-ogreish Ob'enn. Fortunately, they have ridiculously tiny ears, or he probably would not be emotionally able to command ursumari troops! As is, he gives his ursumari engineer even more slack than her size and bad temper should call for. A 21st-century human would say, "He thinks she's She-Hulk." 

Sir prefers that his opponents show their submission by falling down and bleeding out, but for enough money, he will cheerfully take prisoners.

All art is copyright by The Tayler Corporation and used by permission.

-- Steve Jackson

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