Monday, November 13, 2023

Play Report - Ghost Town, the Conclusion

 The troubleshooters did not spend the night in the shuttle after all. They chose instead to hole up in the chapel, which they had already searched. They took turns watching, first the two guys (Eowan Addison and Jotunn), then the two gals (Krater Constellation and Genevieve).

In the last watch of the night, Genevieve realized that she was being watched. Through a broken window, she saw a vacc suited figure looking in at her. The face plate was shattered – and there was no face inside the helmet! 

Calling out for her comrades, she tried to bring her autopistol to bear on the figure. Once again it darted away upon being spotted, heading in the direction of the shuttle and the arrival station.

The gang gave chase, but it seemed once again that the mysterious figure had eluded them. Eowan and Jotunn entered the shuttle to inspect it, fearing sabotage. Genevieve and Krater searched the exterior of the shuttle, then Krater spotted the vacc suit figure again. This time, it was on the roof of the station! Bullet and laser beam found their target, knocking the figure backwards. The guys climbed out the shuttle's top hatch and jumped over to the roof. No vacc suit!

But wait! There it was, rushing away down one of the 'streets' of the town, probably planning to lose them in the darkness again. 

Eowan (my son's PC) pulled a neat trick. He teleported to a spot in front of the fleeing figure, and body-blocked it into the dirt. Did I mention that all four of these troubleshooters were Psi-trained? This is only the second time in my history as a Referee that psionics came into play.

From the roof, Jotunn used telekinesis to launch a handful of steel balls at the vacc suit figure. He realized his shotgun would be ineffective at the range, but TK could cover the distance! Between them, they finally put the rogue suit on the ground.

Eowan realized while grappling the suit that there was no normal body inside. Once they had it subdued, he cut into the suit with his Blade, to reveal

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Play Report - Hunting on Narok

Only three days of in-game time were covered in the last session. The Crew of the High Victorian is on Narok. And chose to take a random patron job while waiting for the cargo convoy to ship out.

A local magistrate put out a bounty on a local prairie-dwelling beast known as the yong-gong (shrieking thing). He explained that it had broken into some local farms, killed livestock and then killed farm workers who were defending the herds. The magistrate said it had to be put down, so a “Wanted: Dead, success only” contract.

Do you see it?  It's right over there!
The player for the Marquis said he wanted a quick win, and a success on his record. Plus it would be a little bit of good PR for the Empire.

The players are learning, no rushing off without a plan or enough gear. The Marquis secured vehicles, communicators and enough gear. One PC, an ex-Army man bought himself a modified rifle LINK to hunt the yong-gong. The yong-gong is a big critter, about the mass of a Kodiak bear:

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Play Report - Ghost Town

At this week's game session, a number of regulars were absent so we turned to a standalone adventure with new characters. 

At my encouragement, several of the players went for Psionic training for their new PCs. What we got was a selection of low-level Psi talent, which they put to good use right away. 

The group, troubleshooters on Stavanger prime, were hired by a businessman to investigate some unusual happenings on a subordinate world. A mining town there had closed down when a better operation began elsewhere on the world.

The original owners of the land & mine eventually sold the property rights to the patron. He had a team of assessors on site, to determine the value of the location and inform what the patron might do with the land and buildings. 

The assessors reported back that strange things were happening around the town, so the patron hired the PCs to go out and act as troubleshooters. Get to the bottom of the mystery and let the assessors finish their work. En route to the subordinate world, the PCs passed the assessors' shuttle going the opposite direction. They'd seen enough and were scared off. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Place of and Importance of Gear

I was tinkering over the weekend with an old project of mine. It's an equipment list, things that either I've pulled from published CT stuff, or seen in other games, or invented on my own. 

I realized that most everything there could be useful, if (and only if) the PCs were in a specific situation and needed one of my widgets. 

The Equipment List in TTB is frankly sparse. Yet much of Traveller adventuring does not require much gear apart from weapons and armor. 

Until you start exploring. 

In the session a few weeks ago, the PCs were exploring a closed-down facility on an asteroid, at the request of a patron. I described the facility to the players, mentioning that the power was off, and had been for a decade, and the asteroid was tiny, so the interior was effectively at 0.0G. This detail, it seems, went over their heads, as no one brought anything along to help mitigate the zero-G experience. Also missing from the shopping list were light sources, and any medical kits or expertise. At least they had a PC with Jack-of-all-Trades. 

All that was left of the cargo bay was containers and scrap

They discovered upon arrival that the facility had no stairs. When in use, it had lift shafts to move people between the five levels. When the power was turned off, the lifts locked in place. One of them was at the top/entrance level, so that shaft was totally unusable. The other lift was at the bottom floor, so that shaft was a five-story drop. Even in near-zero-G, velocity builds up so there was no guarantee of a safe landing, making the jump down (and don't forget the absence of a medical kit) a dangerous option. This was important, as the Patron had informed them that the power plant was on the bottom level. If they could get to it and re-start it, then the lifts would work.

What resulted was a lot of improvisation and a fair bit of luck. As in: Chucking a mattress down the lift shaft and Geronimo-ing after it. That could have ended badly, but didn't. The players discussed afterwards how they could have packed to be better prepared. And in the end, it's player skill that enables the correct packing list for the job. Lesson learned.

For a different perspective:

I will remind them about the gear lists in the next session.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Saturday, August 26, 2023

What Are the Assumptions of Traveller?

Bradford C Walker has written some interesting things about the point or goal of RPGs, hearkening back to the roots in wargames. He asked in one post, in relation to games, one of which was Traveller: “Make obvious what is hidden. Make explicit what is implicit.”

Okay, challenge accepted.

Some of what follows is quotes from The Traveller Book. TTB has the most extensive Introduction section of the three rules editions of CT. (TTB, LBBs 1-3, and Starter Traveller) Much of it is my read & interpretation of what I’ve found there.

Some say the one core assumption of Traveller is that communication moves at the speed of travel. The implications of that I touched on in this post.

An implicit assumption of Traveller is that the players are familiar with space adventure literature. There are references to different adventure novels throughout the rulebooks, and the Official 3I setting. 

Encounters are central to Traveller. In space, you have starship encounters. On uninhabited worlds there are animals and events to encounter. On inhabited worlds, there are legal, random and patron encounters. These are tools for the Referee to provide challenge and opportunity for the players. 

“The use of non-player characters is one of the most important things for a Referee to learn.” (TTB, p.13) "A large part of a Referee's job is the administration of encounters." (TTB, p.11) 

There are four types of NPCs. Spear carriers, informants, patrons, and trouble-makers. All can help or hinder the Travellers in their adventures. 

PCs also encounter Information. The Referee should keep information in four categories. One, what the PCs know because they exist in the world (common knowledge). Two what will cost the PCs little to learn. Three, what will cost them much to learn, and four, that which they cannot learn by themselves. 

Marc Miller (the author) states that conventional means like thrift and hard work do not work in Traveller. Bold, daring plans do, or might, work.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Actual Play report - Random Encounter

 Best thing to come out of the game today:

The PCs have a license for salvaging on a restricted planet. The Navy uses the world for exercises, and there’s a lot of military material laying about. Vehicles, munitions and other recoverable goods dot the surface.

During their explorations, I rolled for a Random Encounter, and got a Religious Group. Okay, why not? I never said the PCs were the only ones on the planet.  The group was travelling in ground vehicles, marked with the symbol of their religion.

I asked the player with the highest Education to tell us who this group was.

Everyone else jumped in with their ideas, so in the end what we got was:

 The Adepts of the Machine

This fringe cult group’s beliefs focus on the spiritual dimension of starships. Ships must be built by hand, with proper ceremonies, to avoid offending the space gods. Ships assembled at shipyards by unbelievers do harm to the fabric of space, and the gods punish the spacers by causing misjumps and drive failures.  Also, the Whisperers are the servants of the space gods, haunting the unbelievers.  

The Adepts build spacecraft by hand; they were on the salvage planet looking for materials with which to build, or like the PCs, good they can sell to buy components.

The PCs decided to not interact with the Adepts, and flew on.

This game is so much fun.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Implications of Jump Drive

 The Jump Drive is the technology in Traveller that allows for FTL travel. We play Traveller, We know this. But have you thought about what that means?

The Jump Drive moves the PCs from hex to hex, yes. But how?  You look at the jump rating, which is a cross-reference of the size of the ship and the letter code, A to Z, of the drive. These give us the ratings from 1 to 6. Still telling you things you already know.

The point is this: a jump drive is not rated by how fast it can go. Any jump “takes about one week” (TTB, p. 49) whether you have a tiny type-A in your Free Trader or a mammoth type-Z in your super-cargo freighter. 

A jump drive rating tells you how far it can go in that one week. A jump-2 drive is not twice as fast  as a jump-1 drive; it has twice the range of the jump-1 drive.

There is no real-world comparison for this distinction. We rate vehicles, from bicycles to Blackbirds in rate of distance per unit of time. Faster vehicles cover the distance in less time. Not so in Traveller. A jump-1 drive takes as long as a jump-6 drive to do a one-hex transit. End of story. 

The difference is of vital importance to Travellers. Why? Because of a hard-wired fact of the Traveller setting, whether the 3rd Imperium or my own Church and Empire setting. Information, in order to propagate, must be carried. In ships, that all take a week to jump. 

From Supp 8, Library Data: Another central fact of interstellar travel is that no method of information transfer faster than jump drive transmission has been discovered. Ships can carry messages, but radio still lags at mere light speed. Communication is always restricted to the speed of interstellar transportation.

The distances between worlds is a fixed and unchanging quantity. If you want information about a world 6 hexes away, how long will it take for that information to reach you? Answer: either six weeks, or one. If you get your information delivered express, you get to act a month and a half before the other guy does, who’s waiting on a jump-1 courier to bring it.

The same goes when Travellers decide to, well, travel. A ship with Jump-4 can get a Traveller from Holtzmann to Stavanger in one week. A Jump-2 ship will take 3 weeks to make the same trip. Look at the map to figure out why. If your PC and his competition have a goal to reach on Stavanger, what is the essential play?  Securing the ship with long enough legs to get you there in one week.

Add to that this complication. Not all planets have the same access to the information delivery network. TTB page 89 says: 

Within the subsector, local governments will have established communications or trade routes connecting some (but not all) worlds.


Communications routes should be carefully drawn so as to avoid making all parts of the subsector accessible; a subsector should reserve some areas as backwaters for exploration and adventure.

Depending on where you are, it may take even longer for the Big News to reach you.

The Traveller who wants to do big things and make a name for himself needs information, and needs it faster than his competition. Knowledge is Power. The Jump drive is the key to that power. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Friday, July 14, 2023

Play Report - Prospecting!

 Not all of our regular players were at game this week, but it is quick and easy to roll up Traveller characters. Graham Clark and C-418, along with their new friend Chuck Norris (his player is a gal with a sense of humor) found themselves with some leave time from the service of Count Murietta. Hoping to make some fast cash, they decided to try prospecting in the wilderness of Holtzmann. 

A pencil sketch map of Holtzmann's inhabited region.

They did some research, and chose an area between two of the rivers flowing south out of the mountains. After hiring an ATV and equipping for a fortnight in the wild, they set off for what they hoped would be a small fortune. 

The way I decided to handle the prospecting part was to secretly dice for the number of 6-hour work periods that they would have to put in before discovering the resource, in this case some type of precious metal. During the multiple days it takes to work through those periods, I diced for random and animal encounters. 

The prospecting work itself was in the background. Traveller has a Prospecting skill, introduced in the Supplement 4 Citizens of the Imperium with the Belter career. None of the C3 group had it, so I fell back on the Education stat. The group made an initial throw to determine a likely spot to prospect in, with DMs for high EDU and JOT skill. I left the results uncertain to them. This was so that they had to decide how long to 'keep digging away' before deciding that they were looking in a wrong spot.

Supplement 2 Animal Encounters gave them a number of curious critters to encounter. At least one was hostile, and Clark was slightly wounded trying to put it down. 

A group of tourists from Dekalb wandered by the prospecting camp in their contra-grav 'bus' and took some pictures. That's just what the Random Encounter table said. Fortunately, their reaction throw was a 7. I can imagine the mess if the tourists had decided to attack the PCs!

Right at the end of the session, the random encounter table gave up the result of Ambushing Brigands. We left it as a cliffhanger for next time how they would resolve that encounter.

Each group of players at my table has an Imperial Calendar page. By comparing it to my official events calendar, I can keep up with multiple parties pursuing multiple ends. The C3 Group is on day 084, about ten days behind the main group. 

If they make it to the end of their prospecting trip, they may return to the city a lot richer. In that case others might get the same prospecting bug and start a gold rush. Who knows?  We'll find out next session.


The following session, I had the players who were prospecting on one 'team' and the rest of the players formed the Brigand's team. There was a brief but spirited combat between the prospector's ATV and the brigand's off-road trucks. While the prospectors got away with the ATV and their skins intact, they were driven off the dig area before they found any of the resources they sought. Such is the nature of adventuring. 

Second update:

In the most recent session, the main group of PCs kitted out an expedition to Holtzmann Gamma, a world restricted by the Imperial Navy, as they use it for combat practice such as orbital artillery and hot landings. 

This map shows H/Gamma's surface. The black hexes are the No-Go zones, either due to active Navy missions, or [CLASSIFIED]. The PC's went to the hex marked with a red plus sign. This time they found some recoverable ordnance and a cache of Marine cutlasses, which they were able to sell for a tidy profit!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

What does Classic Traveller Do?

I have followed with interest  Brad Walker's postings on his blog about game design, and the wargame roots of the RPG hobby. In a recent post he says:

Classic Traveller retains its power despite being decades away from the spotlight, such that every other space adventure game is compared to it- including its successors. It has a separate and distinct play experience from both of the aforementioned, and has itself influenced many others after it (e.g. Twilight 2000).

I thought about Traveller's design and why the game has endured so long. This is by no means a definitive essay on the subject, merely my thoughts at this point.

What do the Classic Traveller Rules Do?

By the way, the short answer is

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

A general Encounter Table for Sword of Cepheus

A Discord discussion of Sword of Cepheus that I took part in brought up the question of encounters.  I mentioned that I'd done up a simple table for some random encounters, and people asked about it. So I'm sharing it here.

I present to you an array of characters that adventurers may come upon in Sword of Cepheus. Gamers familiar with Classic Traveller will recognize this table, and many of the encounters listed. 

This encounter did not go well for our hero.

SoC does not give any standard encounter distances. If outdoors & daytime, the two parties might be a few hundred meters apart at first. The Referee might say they look to be "about one bow shot away" (or 2-3). In the city the range might be down to spear-throwing distances. At night, or in an indoor/underground situation they will be much closer.  Indoors an encounter will likely happen at close enough range for the two sides to speak to one another. Combat in SoC is fairly abstracted, so exact measurement is not required. Besides, how many people can accurately gauge distances outdoors by sight?  Can you?  I'm not good at it. 

The Surprise rule (SoC, p. 54) should affect the initial range. It's hard to be surprised by someone you saw coming from half a mile.

Entries which read Monsters are any non-human (or PC race) creatures chosen from the SoC Monster section, guided by the habitat notes in the monster descriptions. Use the Number Appearing listed in the monster description. Wild animals are specifically non-fantastical or magical creatures that may still pose a threat. 

Monday, June 19, 2023

Duelling in Space

In our last session, a player brought a character to the table, which was a product of this online generator:

Barbarian Warrior Logan Singh B5A758 Age 46 7 terms Cr4,000 
Skills: Brawling-1, Carousing-1, Mechanical-1, Recon-1, Short Bow-2, Sword-7

Yeah, I put that last one in boldface on purpose. I have remarked before on this blog about how high levels of skill are possible. See Enrique Salazar for one. Now there's one in play in my TU.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Session Recap - gaming on the fly

 Several of the usual players were unable to make it to the session last evening, so I focused on the two who were there. Graham Clark and his sidekick known as C-418 are working for a Count on Holtzmann. We covered three weeks of in-game time. Most was routine work for the Count (in his vehicle fleet) In their free time they did some shopping and a little Trade & Speculation. They netted a profit, but not much adventure. 
Image unrelated, but still cool. I'm sure that creature exists somewhere in my TU.

As I was anticipating concluding an adventure begun the week before with the full group, I had nothing prepared ahead of time. What to do?  The answer is right there in The Traveller Book. I checked on Legal Encounters, Random Encounters and Rumors. All three of these give the Referee tools to generate adventures.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Pascha and Penance and Adventure

 April 16th is Great and Holy Pascha for the Orthodox Church in the year of our Lord 2023. In the Far Future, the dating of Pascha may become more complicated but the significance of the day will not change.

In my parish, we will baptize and chrismate nearly a dozen new Orthodox Christians at the Paschal Vigil. Glory to God!

Part of the preparation for Baptism (for the converts) and for Pascha (for the faithful) is Repentance and Confession. This post is not going to be a lesson in Orthodox doctrine, but rather an exploration of what these things might look like in the context of Traveller.  Let me explain.

In the game we’ve begun recently, my son is playing a PC called Mac. Mac went through the Pirates career. Recently he came to me and said that as part of his PC’s story, Mac had encountered a Christian priest in the midst of one of his piratical ventures, and as a result was convicted and chose to leave the buccaneering life.

He fled from the Empire to the Corridor and is now part of a new legitimate crew. He is concerned that his former associates may come looking for him, considering he skipped out with their Type-K Corsair. Remember, kids, don't give the Referee ideas.

His encounter with the priest was the start of his turnaround (to repent means to turn around, to go the other way – to start going the right way). On Holtzmann, he sought out the Church, and ended up making his Confession to the Bishop of Holtzmann. We decided that his major points for Confession were Robbery [piracy] and (probable) Murder. As a pirate, involved in space battles, it is likely he contributed to the wrongful death of others. Now he’s going to direct his life towards different ends.

Mac is now a Penitent. He is not buying forgiveness; Christ forgives freely all those who repent and turn to Him. The Bishop directed him to three obediences, to help shape him in the new way he desires to live his life. They are: 

1             Forswearing forever the piratical life (let him who stole, steal no more: Ephesians 4:28). All gain must be by honest means.

2             Become for four years a patron and supporter of the Home for Widows and Orphans [see my post on charitable work], established on Holtzmann for the Imperial subjects in those circumstances, from around the Corridor. He exchanges greed (vice) for generosity (virtue).

3             A vow of non-violence. Avoid fighting whenever possible, and use no lethal weapons. He exchanges aggression (vice) for being a peace-maker (virtue).

I decided on these things as they both reflect an amendment of life from Mac’s former ways, and, as this is a game, they are opportunities for adventure. Mac will also (off-screen) go to church, pray, and all the things that go into living the Christian life. But those things are not the sort of adventure that RPGs can emulate.

Depending on how much the W&OH needs money (and it will be a lot) Mac’s going to be busy finding legit ways to raise cash to support them. For a game that often emphasizes violence as the solution to problems, finding alternate solutions will be a chance for some creative role-playing.

As a place to start, Mac will be examining my post on Grenades for types that are non-lethal. We will also put our heads together for other non-lethal means for resolving conflicts. Electro-laser stunners, incapacitating gases, and the TAS Wardens Sleep Rods come to mind.

Off-camera, Mac will be in regular consultation with the priest who runs the Home, to learn of needs, and to confirm that he’s keeping to his penance. He might just provide funding, but more likely will make deliveries, transport people, and visit all kinds of interesting little corners of my TU.

Who know what kinds of adventures and situations and people Mac may encounter with this new direction in life?  Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Naval Base Holtzmann

Recently I was glancing through Supplement 11: Library Data N-Z. I have owned a copy for a long time, but as I don’t play in the Official Traveller Universe, I’ve not paid it any mind. However, after reading the article I’ve reproduced in part here, I realized that I have ignored a potential source of information and adventure.


Naval Bases

Naval Base: Port facility for the support, maintenance, repair, and refit of naval vessels. Planetary surface facilities are generally provided for vessels of 1,000 tons or less; orbital facilities handle larger ships. A naval base has several distinct parts to it; each part helps in the accomplishment of the overall mission of the base.

The typical naval base is composed of an orbital berthing area, a surface berthing area, a maintenance section, and an administrative headquarters.

Berthing areas provide locations for ships to lay over, whether for a day or for months. All berthing areas include provisions for refueling from storage tanks or fuel lighters.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Creature Crossover

A conversation that happened in another sphere of social media asked the question of what creatures from that famous fantasy RPG could be 'ported over to Traveller. As it turns out, a lot of them! Maybe I'll make this into a post series.

I wrote a post about dragons several years ago.

Now, I have a policy in my Traveller Universe that the only intelligent star-faring race is Man, so I have no interest in space hobgoblins or kobolds. Solitary or herd/pack dwelling creatures are the kind I'm looking at.

Maybe there are humanoid creatures of low/animal intelligence and no capacity for culture. I've argued elsewhere that intelligence is not what sets us apart from the rest of creation, rather our God-given capacity for love and creativity. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

More on Skills: Administration

Let's look at Admin skill . . .

Administration: The individual has had experience with bureaucratic agencies, and understands the requirements of dealing with them and managing them. When contact with officials is required, understanding their needs and motives will assist in dealing with them. A basic throw of 7+ will successfully resolve normal interaction without further problems (such as avoidance of police harassment, insuring prompt issuance of licenses, approval of applications, avoidance of close inspection of papers, etc.). Apply these DMs: no expertise, -3; per level of admin expertise, + 2.

When serving in a bureaucratic organization, admin expertise allows competency in the eyes of superiors. Apply a DM of +1 per level of expertise, with the exact throw to be determined by the referee under the circumstances.

Referee: Admin expertise should also affect the quality of work and potential for success of an organization which the character is controlling or managing. (emphasis added)


One of these people has Admin-5. Can you guess which one?

Friday, March 17, 2023

What can you do with 10,000 Credits?

Why ten thousand credits? No profound reason. It is a common amount of Retirement Pay. It shows up in a few places in TTB as a cost of things (see below). Looking at the Mustering Out Tables, 10,000 is not hard to come by. But it can go again quickly if a PC is not careful. I also figured this would be useful to Referees in determining how much to pay the Travellers for their current job. Don't be a cheapskate, but don't Monty Haul them either.

In terms of Long-term Subsistence, 10,000 Credits will pay for almost an entire year, at the High Living level, to give you a sense of scale. But remember this game was written in the 1970’s when a decent starter house might only cost $10-20,000. Oh, how times have changed.

Is it really an adventure if there's no treasure involved?

I combed through the Traveller Book and my blog for any reference to paying for things. Here's what I found: 10,000 Credits will buy a Traveller:

Monday, January 23, 2023

More on Skills: Carousing and Streetwise

In this series of posts on skills, I have assumed that the given skill descriptions were suggestive, not restrictive. ‘Generally, the skill works for this, but other uses may occur to players’.

 In Traveller, a PC’s skills are the primary tools for interacting with the universe. They are the first measure of a character’s power. The skill list in CT is not large, so it is only sensible for skills to have broad, not narrow, application. You don’t need a big list of skills to be a worthwhile character.

Sometimes, though, skills seem to overlap. This is one of those cases.

Streetwise and Carousing: Close but not Quite the Same

Streetwise: The individual is acquainted with the ways of local subcultures (which tend to be the same everywhere in human society), and thus is capable of dealing with strangers without alienating them. This skill is not the same as alien contact experience. Close-knit subcultures (such as some portions of the lower classes, trade groups such as workers, and the underworld) generally reject contact with strangers or unknown elements. Streetwise expertise allows contact for the purposes of obtaining information, hiring persons, purchasing or selling contraband or stolen goods, and other shady or borderline activities.

Referee: After establishing throws for various activities desired by the characters, allow streetwise as a DM. If streetwise is not used, impose a DM of -5.

I realize this picture has nothing to do with the topic. Rule of Cool, people.

I have often looked at this skill as “how to crime”. Note the underlined phrase above. Now I think of it as also being “I know a guy” and “figure out who's who”. Streetwise is the more familiar skill, coming from Book 1. Carousing was introduced in Book 5. For the most part, I’m talking today about Carousing.