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*Freelance Traveller

The Electronic Fan-Supported Traveller® Resource

The Thick Plotzes

This article was originally written for the website in 2008, and was reprinted in the March 2011 issue of the PDF magazine.

Have you ever wanted to slow down or inconvenience a party without doing too much damage to the characters, their possessions, or the adventure?  Here's a list of minor inconveniences that have been accumulated over time by the staff of Freelance Traveller.  If you have any other ideas, feel free to send them to us at editor@freelancetraveller.com.

  1. One of the PCs slips in the fresher and breaks a limb. (Feel free to break the pilot's arm the morning before that extraction from the hot LZ...)
  2. One of the PCs has an allergic reaction to the patron's perfume / cologne / body scent. The severity can range from relatively mild (watery eyes or itching) to embarrassing (lots of sneezing or vomiting) to drastic (anaphylactic shock).
  3. One of the PCs turns out to have an allergy to something they just ate, with severity as above and the wonderfully colorful potential of the digestive process thrown in.
  4. One of the PCs develops an ear infection, with balance & hearing both suffering.
  5. While barefoot, one of the PCs accidentally steps on a small sharp/pointed object and suffers a relatively minor but rather painful and movement-hampering foot injury.
  6. One of the PCs gets something caught in their eye - a lash, a speck of dust, what have you - at a supremely inconvenient or embarrassing moment.
  7. While eating, one of the PCs breaks a tooth. ("Do they even have dentists on this planet?")
  8. While preparing a meal, a PC accidentally cuts their hand or finger(s) with a rather large and sharp kitchen knife, at least severely enough to require stitches.
  9. A PC gets their hand caught in the topside hatch of an ATV/AFV, requiring medical attention.
  10. While preparing a meal, a PC accidentally dumps a pot of boiling water on themselves or another person, resulting in some extensive 2nd degree burns.
  11. Boy, that coffee / tea / hot chocolate was hot - hot enough to badly burn the PC's tounge...
  12. A PC makes a misstep and falls down a flight of stairs, resulting in a concussion, broken limb, or injury of similar proportions.
  13. In close quarters, a PC whacks their head on an overhang, pipe, low doorframe or some such, badly enough to suffer a concussion and/or serious lacerations, a minor eye injury, etc.
  14. While performing some minor repairs, the PC's hand or a tool slips and the PC's hand strikes something hard or sharp with considerable force, suffering minor injury but suffering from some degree of temporary disablity.
  15. A PC suffers a nighttime leg cramp, causing them to leave the bed and flail around in whatever state of dress / undress, darkness, and local clutter is present. Did you remember to police up all those beer bottles before bed?
  16. POP! You know that Purple Heart you got for that old knee injury you suffered in the service? The cartilage damage has come back to haunt you...
  17. The PC *thought* that heating element was turned off before they touched it...
  18. While in the hospital for a minor procedure, the doctors / surgeons accidentally perform the *wrong* minor procedure on the PC.
  19. Instead of the sweetener the PC thought they were adding to their drink, they added salt instead...
  20. While dining with their patron, a PC accidentally knocks a pitcher of beverage into the patron's lap.
    1. ... and the beverage stains. Embarrassing colors / stain locations optional...
    2. ... the beverage is ice-cold.
  21. That flambe dish accidentally sets someone's (a PC, the patron, a fellow customer) hair on fire.
  22. The PC is drinking while they hear an amazingly funny joke punchline.
  23. The PCs are eating in a restaurant where small children are frequently present (and what great background noise they make!) One of the children at a nearby table has lost a small rolling toy and has come, tearfully, asking permission to look underneath their table for it.
  24. As above, but the tyke doesn't ask permission before he/she starts crawling around under the table in search of their lost plaything. (Good to spring on really paranoid types on worlds with high law levels.)
  25. A child at a nearby table loses their plaything, and the PC finds it when they stand up, stepping on it. Does it roll (taking their foot for the ride)? Does it break, signalling the onset of a major tantrum?
  26. The hotel where the PCs are staying conducts a fire drill.
  27. The hotel where the PCs are staying has problems with their fire alarm, and the system goes off at random times.
    1. During one of the random fire alarm triggerings at the PC's hotel, the sprinklers go off too...
  28. You know that waterproof container? It leaks...
  29. The PC's boot- or shoelace breaks.
  30. While dining at a fairly "high-class" establishment, one of the PCs has a mishap and a piece of food goes flying, possibly striking a fellow diner (or landing in their soup, etc.).
  31. A flat tire, thrown tread or similar mishap occurs to the PC's vehicle during perfectly routine driving. Mysterious figures loitering on nearby rooftops and such are optional but strongly encouraged.
  32. A headlight / taillight / turn signal indicator has failed unbeknownst to the PCs, and the local constabulary pulls them over to issue a safety citation. Hey, what's in the trunk?
  33. When servicing their vehicle or other piece of mechanical equipment, the PC inadvertantly grabs the wrong grade of oil / lubricant / whatever. The effects of this aren't necessarily immediately apparent, though if there's a resulting chemical reaction that causes noxious fluid to spew forth like Old Faithful..
  34. A hydraulic seal on a forklift or similar machine fails during routine work. In the right circumstances, the noise could be mistaken for a gunshot...
  35. Rats, the battery is dead...
  36. You know, every so often the head of an axe, hammer, mattock or similar low-tech tool will fly off (hence the term "flying off the handle"). Anyone downrange? A large body of water, perhaps?
  37. The lights don't come on when the PC hits the switch in their hotel room. Regardless of what they suspect, it's just a blown bulb.
  38. When placing an order, someone forgot to include the unit of measurement, or didn't understand the order code. Instead of 100 10mm nuts, the PCs receive 100 boxes of nuts, at 1000 nuts per box...
  39. A similar miscoding (perhaps a transposition of digits) results the PCs receiving some item completely different from what they were expecting. For example, instead of simple portable radio, they receive a communications van. (They'll be billed for what they got, though...)
  40. The person or machine who packed the PC's order accidentally left out their item, and the box has nothing but packing materials.
  41. The swipe card the PCs planned to use to pay for dinner can't be read. There's money in the account, it's just the magnetic strip is damaged. Got cash?
  42. A coin-operated device eats their money.
  43. While in a park, preferably while conducting some confidential business, one of the PCs is struck in the head by an errant ball kicked / thrown / hit by a group of youngsters playing nearby, who immediately rush over to apologize.
  44. A chemical sniffer, toxicology analyzer or the like is malfunctioning and adamantly reports that the PC is intoxicated, carrying proscribed substances or the like.
  45. The contract is ready to be signed, but a working pen cannot be found.
  46. In the local dialect or language, one of the PC's names is a hilarious joke. None of the natives can say it with a straight face.
  47. A piece of malfunctioning equipment is positioned in an awkward or cramped location. Only one PC at a time can attempt/perform the necessary repairs. Furthermore, the odd location of the equipment slows any attempted work; repairs will take 50% to 200% longer than usual.
  48. A PC suffers a minor, self-inflicted injury while performing routine maintenance or repairs. A wrench slips, a repair part falls, various materials cause burns, stains, or sprains.
  49. While dirtside, the PCs are approached by a colorful, but disturbed, street character. This individual becomes a near constant nuisance after the PCs fail to handle him properly (given his mental problems, there is NO way to handle him properly). The individual interferes with various jobs, meetings, and daily tasks the PCs must perform. Any attempts by the PCs to 'solve' their problems with this individual will cause more difficulties as he is a much pampered and beloved 'pet' among the local populace.
  50. For whatever reason, the day staff of the inn, flophouse, residence hotel, or other accommodation the PCs are currently staying at move the PCs' belongings to another set or suite of rooms while the PCs are out. Nothing is missing, nothing was searched, but the PCs' property were moved while the PCs were at 'work'.
  51. One of the characters, by happenstance wearing a surplus field jacket, is accosted by an otherwise unremarkable-until-it-happens Street Prophet. The Prophet has recognized the character as a former comrade in arms, as well as the individual who saved the Prophet during some horrific ground action during the Nth Frontier War. The Prophet has been waiting a decade or more for the chance to thank his savior face to face. In a highly emotional display, the Prophet will give the character's hand a pretty severe, though heartfelt shake; an equally heartfelt hug quickly following.
  52. The characters are sitting in a restaurant, relaxing and sipping their drinks after having given their order to the Waiter, when a diner at the next small table keels over; rolling right out of his chair and slumping, apparently stone dead, under his table. Amid shrieking and general panic, the characters can decide whether they want to assist or not. The Waiter has Medical-1, and will assist in any life-saving procedure initiated by someone else.
  53. The character has just bitten into a favorite sandwichesque foodstuff, only to discover that the plastic used to wrap each of the individually-wrapped slices of cheese is, unfortunately, still on the cheese.
  54. One of the character's fastening devices (a left shoelace for example) continually comes undone. Getting the fastener fixed or replaced doesn't actually seem to solve the problem though.
  55. There is something odd about the character's electrical field. Any chronometer worn or carried will quit working within 2D weeks. Fixing or replacing the chronometer doesn't actually seem to solve the problem though.
  56. While travelling in an elevator, a glitch or power surge knocks the elevators offline; stopping them in their tracks and switching on the alarm-which-cannot-be-turned-off-without-the-proper-key. The holder of the key is currently not on the premises, and unreachable. The character will be stuck in the screeching box for 1D hours before the keyholder is located. Once the key is turned, the system is reset, and the elevator should return to normal activity---but it doesn't, and Emergency Technicians must be summoned to liberate the character. Watching the Emergency Techs in action, the character will discover just how easy it is to get an elevator opened. Armed with this knowledge, the character will be ready for such an event.