Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Scientist Career Revisited

Citizens of the Imperium introduced the Scientist prior career. My first thoughts (years ago now) when I looked at it were "Who wants to play a lab-coat wearing test tube jockey [not a direct quote]" and "why are there no Science skills for a career called Scientist?"

Time for a re-evaluation. Is it really that bad of a choice of career?
It's gonna be for him, as soon as he gets a case of that super-virus.

Not all scientists are laboratory Researchers - lots of of Scientists are practically applying what's already been discovered/learned. A quick look over the skills list for scientists tells you these are not lab-coat wearing office dwellers. Traveller scientists are probably practitioners, or possibly field researchers.

All of the UPP characteristics except social standing can be improved. The service has a blend of technical skills, interpersonal skills, social skills, and a few slots for vehicle and weapons skills. This service does have it all. There's even Navigation skill, which will come in handy as one of the benefits is a laboratory ship. A scientist with Navigation can claim to be familiar with shipboard life, and be able to manage the ship. In the advanced education table there's an entry for Leadership skill, which will also be useful for directing a crew of NPCs.
Navigation suggests a focus on Astronomy. Electronics or Mechanical skill can mean degrees in those Engineering specialties. Gravitics and Computer are also engineering specialties. You could argue that the Scientist career is really the Engineers career.

But it is only for the exceptional and clever! The enlistment throw is comparable with sailors flyers and rogues, but the DMs are hard to get: INT 9+ and EDU 10+ and this is the only service that depends entirely on brain power. Survival is harder (5+) than bureaucrats, nobles, doctors and diplomats; and as hard as for sailors and flyers. Clearly these scientists do more than hang about in laboratories.

For comparison, I searched around for examples of scientist or scientifically-minded heroes in literature and television. Here's a sampling of what I found:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

RIP Commander McGee

Something has occurred in a game that I have never experienced before as a Traveller player. I started playing in 1982 or 83. In all that time, I have never had a player character die. Until now.

At yesterday's session of the once-a-month gaming group that I referee for my boys and their friends, Commander McGee died. The game was set in Holtzmann's Corridor, on the planet Dekalb. The PC group had just finished a job, capturing an escapee from a hospital who had been exposed to some weird things which resulted in him being super-fast and strong. This was in essence the Amber Zone The Werewolf Disease, which I reviewed a few years back. 

After tracking him for two days, they finally were able to confront him, only to find he dodged and dashed away at high speed, frustrating pursuit on foot. The quarry was finally brought to heel by Maj. Reaper hurling his sword him, at Medium range, and hitting the man in the leg. There's a bar story for you.

McGee, we barely knew ye.

Well, they got paid for the job, and decided to go to Stavanger next. I explained the various travel options, and McGee's player decided to travel Low Passage to save cash. The liner had a qualified Doctor (Medical-3) aboard, and he had no -DM for low Endurance. All McGee needed to survive the Low Berth process was to throw a 3 or higher. The target is 5+, with a DM of +2 for medical support.

He thew Snake Eyes.

The Brothers of St. Cuthbert took care of burying McGee, and my son had a few spare character sheets lying around. McGee's player picked one, announced that this was McGee's brother, transferred all his gear and cash to the new character, and we rolled on.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Watch Out For Falling Rocks! - Avoiding Hazards

Referees, you know you want to do this to your players!

Who hasn't seen a film or show in which the hero must navigate an area full of dangers? It could be a burning building, a collapsing mine shaft, an avalanche, or an artillery barrage. The hero dashes, dodges, jumps, ducks and otherwise displays their physical prowess by coming through without a scratch. This is also a way to get rid of the villain, who disappears in a shower of flying doom. 

I've worked up some simple rules to simulate these thrilling scenes.

Watch Out For Falling Rocks!

To determine the possibility of avoiding damage from collapsing structures, avalanches, rock slides, fires, etc., use the following throws. This can be used any time a character must move through an area of avoidable environmental danger or random gunfire. It will not apply to radiation, extreme heat or cold, or any other unavoidable condition.

The character moves at speed 1 (walking speed) representing the need to dodge and weave to avoid hazards. Expend one combat blow and make a throw every round until the character is out of the danger zone.

Monday, October 30, 2017

An Example of Solo Play with a familiar Patron

Michael Thompson over at the Traveller Adventures blog recently posted a report from a solo play session which featured a familiar face. Back when I posted the Casual Encounter with Adelaide Thrupp, Michael asked in the comments if he could use the character, and I said please do! Here's a snippet from the results:
            A middle-aged woman dressed in professional attire approached her, “Excuse me, Petty Officer? I’m Third Secretary Thrupp, formerly of the Diplomatic Corps. I think you may need my help here.”
            “Madam, I’m quite sure that anything like that- “
            “Can go through your Captain, and the Station Officer. I know the channels. I also know somebody in the Station Office has been compromised. If I can talk to your Captain, you can help me make a big bust here.”
            “People are listening. Aboard ship, it’ll be clear.”

Read the entire post here.

Thanks Michael!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Traveller game, new Traveller players

I have begun a Traveller campaign (sandbox, so far) with my two boys and their friends. This motley crew of odds & ends:
  • Commander McGee – ex Marine
  • Lt Landreth – ex Navy
  • Ca'al – ex Navy petty officer, carries a halberd!
  • Major Reaper – ex Army
  along with
  • Joe Blasterson – ex Army
  • Jay Maverick – ex Hunter
  • Longfinger – a Barbarian from a genetic offshoot of humanity

are off to explore Holtzmann's Corridor. For some of them, I think, their exposure to Science Fiction is limited to the Trek/Wars franchises. All of them, with the exception of my boys, are new to Traveller and some to role-playing as a hobby.

This will be an opportunity to introduce them to some different sci-fi concepts and some older works of fiction. Will they acquire a starship?  Will they be heroes or space bums?  Will they change the world?  We shall see.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Review of The Wreck in the Ring

Hey, I think I can see my ship from here!

This fellow calling himself Pookie UK has posted a review of The Wreck in the Ring. It's good to know that people have noticed. The review is generally favorable, while acknowledging some things that I could have done better.

Here's a quote:

"The technical aspects of the adventure are not its only challenge. There is at least one NPC who has ulterior motives and two NPCs who have motives other than salvage. In fact, one of the interesting NPCs is a member of the Brothers of St. Cuthbert, which is dedicated to recovering the bodies of those lost in space and returning them home for proper burial. This nicely adds a degree of faith and purpose not always present in adventures for the Cepheus Engine Core Rules and other 2D6 OGL SciFi mechanics. There is one other danger in Borderlands Adventure 1: Wreck in the Ring, one that suffuses both the ship and adventure with a sense of unease. Now, in scenarios like these, the cause of this unease, perhaps paranoia, might be some alien thing or crazed survivor, either ready and hungry to stalk and slaughter first the NPCs and then the player characters. And so it is here, but in Borderlands Adventure 1: Wreck in the Ring it does not feel like a cliché because it does not have to play out like a survival horror movie in space. Only if the player characters make every effort to interfere will the scenario turn into one of survival horror in space rather than one of salvage and recovery."
I admit I didn't think of the potential cliche in the element he mentions, as 'survival horror' is not on my list of genres I enjoy. I wanted a surprise and a mystery to present a challenge so the adventure would have more to it than the abstract dangers of working in hard vacuum. 

It was not my intent to make this a killer scenario, but if the referee applies the rules and situations hard enough, it could be.

The takeaway for me is 'next time write up a handout for the players' - give the 
Ref something tangible to show the players that quickly transmits some relevant information. Also, spend just a little more time giving important NPCs some background and personality, again to help the Referee build the situation.

Thank you Pookie UK for the review, and the ideas for improvement.