Thursday, March 31, 2022

Game Conclusion - Shadows, with observations

 Our Friday night game sessions have taken a back seat recently to church events (Feast of the Annunciation among others) but we were able to complete the Shadows adventure last weekend. Here I'd like to share a few thoughts about the adventure as presented, and the changes I made for our group.

If there is anyone who plays Traveller but does not know Shadows, I will try to not disclose too much about the adventure as written. Read on at your discretion. 

Shadows is reminiscent of "dungeon crawl" adventures, so even players unfamiliar with Traveller immediately had a sense of what to do. I think it's a solid if unspectacular introductory adventure. Like many published Traveller adventures it is easy to drop into a pre-existing setting. If the PCs are not operating in the vicinity of Yorbund in the OTU it would be hard to get them there. Game play was linear; there are not many alternative approaches to the puzzle/problem of the pyramid complex. I switched out a few things to connect Shadows to my TU and to put my own stamp on it.

First, I situated the pyramid structure in Holtzmann's Corridor, in my TU. I invited the players to choose a home planet either in the Empire or the Corridor. And it came to pass that one of the players chose Mavramorn, the planet where I chose to place the pyramid. So she had an 'in' for asking lots of detail questions. Her PC's Education score was 12, so I answered accurately just about every question she asked.

Second, I replaced the chief obstacle inside the pyramid with a group of Genetically Modified Humans. GMH's or "Jimmies" are human, but humans who were altered in utero to improve or add to their bodies. Any kind of modification is possible; the Bree are a type that I've included in adventures before. Not everyone is okay with such modifications. On some planets, like Mavramorn, Jimmies are discriminated against, relegated to second-class citizens or worse. The group in the pyramid were driven there by cultural pressure and were naturally suspicious of the PC's intrusion.

For some role-playing, I had each player make a reaction throw when they encountered the Jimmies. What would their level of prejudice be?  Two PCs came from planets which I had predetermined were unfavorable to Jimmies, so they had a -DM to the throw. None came out with very strong opinions, but it did add complexity to the decisions they had to make about how to handle things.

Along with the location change the atmosphere of Mavramorn is not as dangerous as that of Yorbund. I admit it is inconsistent that I disliked the danger of "oops your vacc suit broke, you dissolve in the local atmosphere" but kept in place the danger of "oops, you missed your throw while climbing the rope down the shaft. You're dead when you hit the floor five seconds later." No one needed this, but I planned for a one-chance saving throw if anyone fell in, or lost their grip on the rope. But a fall would have been fatal, and I mentally committed to enforcing that.

I enforced the encumbrance rule, which did have an effect on play. The PCs were away from ship and vehicle that could carry lots of extra gear, and they all took the limitation in stride. It did help that I also enforced the Gravity rule - Mavramorn's surface gravity is only 0.4G. So a PC with STR 8 could carry 13 kilos without penalty. The same gravity rule made climbing up & down ropes easier.

We went into this adventure as a one-shot, as our regular Referee had some heavy weeks at work and didn't have prep time. Several players had never tried Traveller before, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps in future a regular game will develop. The ground work is laid.

Have you ever run or played Shadows? Tell about it in the comments.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Game Report - Shadows

For the last few months, I have been playing in a Friday night game (not Traveller) group with friends. Last night, since our regular Referee was wiped out with a grueling week at work, he relinquished the chair. I stepped in and offered a Classic Traveller one-shot: Double Adventure # 1, Shadows. It has turned into a two-shot, as the crew of the Alexandria-class Free Trader Normandy have not yet made it inside the pyramid structure. We hope to finish it next Friday. 

I've made a few changes, of course. The setting moved to Holtzmann's Corridor, on the planet Mavramorn. Mavramorn does not have a corrosive atmosphere; rather a thin and tainted one. The PCs need breather masks, but not full vacc suits. The other changes I can't reveal until after the adventure is concluded.

Mavramorn's national symbol

To save time (not enough, apparently) I consulted both Supplement 1 and Supplement 4 for pre-gen characters. We have:

  • Scout Pilot Shepherd 9A8687  Pilot-1, Mechanical-3, Medical-1, Vacc Suit-2, Computer-1
  • Baroness Chao 2 term Noble 89788C  Engineering-1, Computer-1, Laser rifle-1
  • Marine Corporal Fractin  998667  Electronics-2, Cutlass-1, Revolver-1, Brawling-0
  • Army Major "Snake"  B85695  Leader-2, Mechanical-3, Cutlass-1, Rifle-1, SMG-1
  • Merchant Officer Suzette A5A7CA  Steward-2, Medical-1, Navigation-1, Brawling-0
  • (NPC) Proper Dave  A3AA9A  Engineering-3, Medical-2, Admin-1
While waiting in orbit to be granted permission to land, Suzette detected a strange energy emission on the surface, far away from the inhabited parts of Mavramorn (population 50 million). They descended to investigate it since they were just waiting around anyway, and nearly got shot down as they approached the pyramid structure. 

They geared up and explored the outside of the pyramid, and finally found the hidden entrance located [redacted]. Next week we'll explore the interior and hopefully locate the energy weapon controls. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

O Give Me a Home - Acquiring land in Traveller

I was wondering recently. What does it cost in Traveller to own land? The concept is not addressed in The Traveller Book. The underlying assumption of PCs forever on the move explains this absence. When the Third Imperium came along, the galaxy gained a social structure, and introduced the possibility of PCs owning land.

Land ownership can integrate with the concept of Traveller. It means that the wandering PCs are not aimless. They have a place to return to. Everyone is from somewhere. For most folk, where someone comes from is a major factor in their identity and sense of self. Where do I belong? is not a frivolous question. 

I've mentioned before in Character Experience and Development that PCs might gain land as a reward. If the PCs do some thrilling heroics and save the town/city/planet, that piece of prime real estate makes sense. You've endeared yourself to the local populace. They want you to feel that you're a part of them now, by owning part of where they live.

Welcome home!
Once the homestead is official, if the PCs get involved with that, the property should start paying for itself. Land is a resource for making money. Grow food, extract resources and then sell it, or rent it out to someone who does those things. Or rent it out as living space. Referees can make adventures out of any of these options.