Technical Journal: Don’t Tango with the Tangler

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by Larry Moore

Tangler grenades are a staple for any would be traveler. Not only are they harmless, but in the right hands can be effective in capturing NPC's you wish to interrogate. Depending on the situation, they are simply a way to subdue a misguided enemy from harming you or your party... or even himself.


Delivery Systems

Like other grenades, tanglers are normally thrown after pulling a pin. However, there are other types of delivery options, as discussed below. Note that these options don’t change the cost of the grenade; they are just types of grenade delivery systems that may be selected on purchase. Referees may wish to require specification of grenade type, or may assume any modern grenade in the Frontier can do any of these as desired. These delivery systems can be used with any grenade but this article is mostly focused on the Tangler grenade.

  • Pin-Pulling – A removable pin is pulled from the top of the grenade while a handle lever is held in place, but nothing happens. The pin can even be reinserted without anything bad happening. When the operator releases the handle, however, the grenade is set and the charge will fire in 3-4 seconds (just enough time to hurl it away). This is the standard, classic form of grenade delivery.
  • Variable Timer – These types of grenades lack either a pin or a handle lever. Instead they have a small dial (with a setting between 1 and 10) and a pushbutton. When the dial is set and the button is double-pushed, the variable timer begins its countdown. A setting of “1” results in a countdown of 1 turn (six seconds) while a setting of “10” results in a countdown of 10 turns (1 minute). Once the button is pushed, the timer is committed and cannot be modified. If a character has a demolitions skill and spends a turn doing it, he may disassemble the variable timer from the grenade before the time expires with a successful Defuse Charge roll. When the timer expires, the grenade explodes. Adventurers often use variable timer grenades to set impromptu charges to damage doors and such. For a Tangler grenade, this makes an excellent booby trap for when you’re being followed!
  • Detonation Button – This simple type of grenade delivery system has two buttons, one for the thumb and one for the forefinger. It’s not possible for the forefinger button to be accidentally pressed while in a pocket. When both buttons are pressed at the same time and then released simultaneously (as in a throwing motion presumably), the charge is set and will explode within 3-4 seconds – just enough time to hurl it at an enemy. This detonation method is very popular and found readily throughout the Frontier because it’s mechanically simple and quite compact.
  • Voice Command – This higher-tech delivery system has a button on it’s top, and a highly amplified microphone receiver. It has a small amount of electronic memory. The character presses the button and speaks a command word into it, then release the button. From that point on, if the microphone senses the voice pattern speaking the command word, it will detonate. The voice command detonation option isn’t all that popular because it has a limited range (the microphone won’t detect the character’s voice past 15 meters). Additionally, there have been some isolated cases of accidental detonation when improperly stowed. Voice recognition technology is more popular in the Voice Command Mine kit (see below).
  • Impact Detonation – This type of grenade delivery system has no identifiable button, handle, pin, or technology. It has tail fins to force proper orientation in flight. Inside the body of the grenade, it detects sudden impact when the grenade hits its target at a significant velocity, as if it had been thrown. This type of grenade is dangerous to drop accidentally!


A small charge in the center of the grenade is surrounded by hundreds of polymer threads made of an adhesive elastomeric material. Upon contact with oxygen, the hardening process begins. It typically takes mere seconds for the liquid threads to harden. The charge inside is harmless even when discharging next to a character.

As hundreds of sticky polymers shoot out in all directions, they entangle anything in they touch. The solidifying of the polymers is a sticky affair and adheres to characters, creatures, wood, metal, stone, and even glass. Its effects are messy, and can cause destructive effects to moving mechanical parts when their servos become overworked. The strands are strong enough to stop a fan blade from spinning... and can stick a character or NPC to a wall and keep them there.

The typical blast radius for a tangler grenade is 3 meters. Tangler mines (see below) can be much larger depending on the manufacture but typically its 5 meters.

Avoiding Entanglement

The only real way to avoid being entangled by these nonlethal grenades is to avoid being struck by the solidifying sticky strands. This is accomplished by making a Reaction Speed avoidance roll and either diving out of the blast radius (must start the next turn prone) or interposing something between the blast and yourself (like ducking behind a wall or a crate).

Partial Entanglement

This is an optional rule and may be ignored by Referees who want to keep entanglement simple. Using this rule, a player’s character isn’t necessarily doomed to become a slave on a pirate ship (or whatever) just because he failed his Reaction Speed avoidance roll and became entangled. It’s possible he’s not fully tangled. It can add a dramatic element to the story when the opponent thinks you’re bound and gets a nice surprise when he learns (the hard way) that your gun hand wasn’t bound at all... Whenever your character becomes tangled, roll 1d10:

d10 Entanglement Effect
1 One leg partially entangled. Character cannot walk, but can still have use of his other limbs. His inability to maneuver gives opponents a +5 to hit him and gives him a -5 to hit others.
2 Both legs entangled. The Character is unable to walk or dodge, though he still has use of his arms. Reduced mobility gives opponents a +10 to hit him and his lack of coordination causes the trapped character to have a -10 to hit others.
3 One of the character’s hands (determine randomly) has become stuck to his weapon (or other item) and is stuck to a wall, post, door, floor, etc. Of course, he is unable to use that limb to do anything, but the rest of his body is still free to act. Reduced mobility gives opponents a +10 to hit him and his lack of coordination causes the trapped character to have a -10 to hit others.
4 The character’s arms are stuck to his own torso. He can still walk or run, but his entire upper body (except head) is stuck solid. Reduced mobility gives opponents a +20 to hit him and his lack of coordination causes the trapped character to have a -20 to hit others.
5 The character’s head has been covered by tangler threads and he is having trouble seeing or breathing. Because he can’t see, his ability to fight is extremely restricted (-20 to hit, +20 to be hit). Because he can’t breathe but never got a proper breath to hold before the tangler hit, he’ll have to make a Stamina check every turn or else take 1d10 points of damage due to suffocation. Of course, since Dralasites breathe through their skin, they are immune to this suffocating effect.
6 Attempt to dodge failed – character is prone and stuck to the floor quite thoroughly. He can’t move or attack, but can look around and talk and breathe normally.
7-9 The character is stuck fully to a nearby table, chair, crate, wall, creature, etc. He is quite vertical but held fast. He can look around, talk, listen, and breathe quite well.
10 The character is stuck fully in an awkward position (perhaps he was trying to succeed in his avoidance roll and got tangled in mid-leap). His awkward position will cause him great discomfort during his captivity. His breathing is labored and his blood is rushing to his head. He can talk but finds it difficult. He may even lapse into and out of unconsciousness due to his blood pressure and breathing.


Characters or creatures with a maximum STA score of 100 or more can break out of entanglement in a single turn. Those with a lower stamina must wait for a friend to administer solvaway (a small vial with enough dissolving agent to free one character from captivity) or for the strands to begin breaking down.

After 30 minutes, the material strength of the hardened strands begins to break down. The decay is quite rapid, and stuck creatures or characters will be able to break it apart and let the pieces crumble around him.

Some scientists claim that large amounts of exposure to tangler threads and/or solvaway can have negative effects on health, though the amount of exposure would have to be extreme for even a minor health-related malady. For game purposes, assume the threads and solvaway are both perfectly safe.