Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Advice from the early years of role-playing

Traveller Procedures: a wealth of advice from The Traveller Book

TTB has been my rules edition of record ever since I got it about ten years ago. I have played Traveller since the early 1980’s, so I am pretty familiar with the rules. Recently I realized that I’d not given much attention to the beginning of TTB, the Introduction. There’s more content in those pages than I long suspected.

The Introduction chapter of TTB presents the basic facts about what Traveller is, and how to play. Lots of RPG books have a section on “how to role-play”. TTB provides several pages of How to Traveller –aimed at the Referee. TTB also gives a view of role-playing from the early years of the hobby. 

The essay Procedures offers advice to the new Referee on the meta-elements of running Traveller. This essay appears only in TTB; neither the '77 or '81 LBB1 has it, and Starter Traveller has selections from the Introduction chapter, but not this section.

"The basic rules deal only with the major aspects of the way the universe works, allowing the referee to fashion details to suit individual preferences." Traveller is not a one-size-fits-all approach to science fiction gaming. It is presented as a framework, around which the Referee (and players) customize the universe in which they will have adventures!

"Referees can adjust the complexities of their universes to their own and their players' abilities, gradually moving upward in complexity as more expertise with the various systems is gained. Playing Traveller can be a challenge to all ages, all intellects, and all levels of role-playing experience." It's true! My sons began play while in the early double-digits, and as they grew and learned, we added more complexity as they explored the TU I've built.

“viewing the players / . .  as “the enemy” . . .  spoils the entertainment value of Traveller.” The Referee is there to provide challenges and structure, not to defeat the other players. “A referee’s fun in Traveller is different from a player’s fun.” I enjoy it when the players surprise me with their creative (or insane) solutions to the challenges I set for them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

From Travellers to Rival Lords - more on owning land

In an earlier post I talked about the possibilities of Travellers owning land. Land ownership is definitely a route to High Level Play. Here I want to move that idea forward by discussing the adventure potential of owning a lot of land. Also, what happens when the PC's activity comes to the attention of the planetary government. 

Someday, Traveller, all this shall be yours.

I use the term sub-state to refer to any organized territory that is not part of or obedient to the planetary government (hereafter I use the abbreviation PG). For those who are interested, here is a summary list of what any state actually does.

Ten Functions of the State

1. The Rule of Law
2. Monopoly on the legitimate means of violence
3. Administrative control
4. Sound management of public finances
5. Investments in human capital
6. Creation of citizenship rights through social policy
7. Provision of infrastructure services
8. Formation of a market
9. Management of public assets
10. Effective public borrowing

 taken from Fixing Failed States by Ghani & Lockhart

Why do sub-states exist? And why should Travellers get involved?

I have said to my sons many times “everything is complicated”. The factors that allow ungoverned spaces to exist are many and varied. In simple summary, any PG has limited resources. Those resources have to enable the governance of all the PG’s territory - the carrying out of the ten functions listed above. Sometimes there’s not enough to go around. The PG combines reasons of 'can't spend resources’ and 'won't spend resources’. The Referee has to decide how effective is the PG at running its own territories.

Sub-states are quite common in Hotlzmann's Corridor, given the low world populations and lower Tech Levels than in the Empire.

How will a PG respond to the presence of a sub-state? It will depend a great deal on the activity of the sub-state. Is it competing with the PG for resources or off-world trade? Is it seeking cooperation or alliance? Is the sub-state engaging in or supporting rebellion against the PG?

The PG has three general categories of response: