Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Portal Gun in Traveller

Not long into my current Traveller campaign, I concluded that there wasn’t enough sci-fi "stuff" in it. It seemed too generic. All the standard technology is very familiar to me. None of it evokes a sense of wonder or the fantastic. I sensed the same from the players.

I try to describe the setting and especially the not-earth-like-at-all planets they visit; to give that sense of being in another place, another time. Mind you, they've not complained; it was me who wanted to give it more, to give them a "Wow!" moment or experience.

One session I explained to the players the concept of Tech Level Change Factor (TLCF) and making gradual improvements to devices. They then had a fun time for most of that session designing and purchasing upgraded weapons on a TL-12 planet. One player now has a very dangerous boarding axe (halberd) which doubles as a cutting torch! I explain some of the TLCF here.

The Tales to Astound blog also talks about the lack of sci-fi in Traveller, as leaving it up to the referee to add in whatever bits of fun tech goodies will make the game more exciting for the players.

I felt the need to remedy this situation. While they were exploring a space station parked way out in the outer reaches of a system, I decided to give them a fun surprise:

A Portal Gun 

Even in the future they appreciate the retro aesthetic

If you don't know what this is, go read the article. Several of them had played this game, and knew what the PG could be used for. They were quite excited!

Now, this might seem to be dangerous and powerful. Reliable teleportation without the use of psionics? What trouble could they cause with it?

Not as much as you might think. They have used it twice so far. Both times it was a boarding action after a starship combat. They don't come in through the airlocks. They come in through a hole in the hull, by shooting a portal window on the interior of the other ship.

Of course, they have no idea how to repair it if it breaks. It could get stolen or seized. And they have some suspicion that it is possible for someone to go in one portal and not come out the other one!

 Imagine an eternity of this before your eyes
As referee, I secretly roll 3d6 for every person who goes through the portals. On a roll of 'alien eyes', someone gets stuck between here and there. They become trapped in the interstitial space the portal device utilizes. How they get the person out again, well they have to find that out.

This is a great thing about Traveller, this flexibility to incorporate any technology that will make the game awesome for your players. I explained the portal gun as a one-off bit of tech that someone invented. It's not standard; it's unique. Or maybe it's something only available on the highest TL planet in the subsector.

What high tech devices have you brought into your Traveller game that are from some other fictional work, or of your own invention? How did the players (and PCs) react to it? Share in the comments.

Image credits:
"Portal Gun" Image
"Portal space" Image

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