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