Sunday, July 7, 2024

Abstract Combat - Battle at PetroPlas!

 My son's Mercenary outfit got its first big battle yesterday.

On the war-torn banana republic world of Faldor, the Wolfpack is protecting a town. The populace are called the Gath, genetically modified Very Tall humans. Many of them work in a factory for a company called PetroPlas (guess what they make?)

Earlier, the Wolfpack had tangled with a local Armed Group called the People's Popular Development Front. The PPDF attacked the factory to gain control of resources and a labor supply.

The Pack sprang into action to defend the factory and the Gath from town.

I have written before about the Abstract Battle system in Book 4, Mercenary. It works fine for streamlining large battles. I have added on a few factors, nothing changing the mini-game, elaborating a bit.

Manpower is the key value, and their weapons/armor/gear is all folded into the Equipment Tech Level.

A unit, whether PC or NPC, squad or Battalion needs to note only a few things:

Manpower and the 'preservation level'. Preservation is the point at which casualties cause the unit to surrender or withdraw. I decided that the NPCs who hit this level will surrender on a 1-3, and flee on a 4-6.

Unit Efficiency is a comparative value. This affects the nature of any round of an engagement. Are the PC forces attacking, defending, surprised? The Referee determines this by a die throw, modified by size and efficiency ratings.

Tech Level of their loadout. This is a static value, and compared against the opposing forces' TL. Advantage to the side with higher TL gear.

Mission: is this unit committed to attacking an enemy force? Defending a position? Conducting a commando raid? This also influences the resolution of a battle round.

This information fits in a box on a sheet of paper, like this:

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Adventures in Resource Discovery

This is an addendum to the previous post on the Class-E starport. I'm looking outside of my usual lane of politics-influenced adventures for more pulp-style endeavors.

Everyone who's played CT knows about Animal Encounters, right? And as a component of this, from TTB, page 96 we find “In addition to animals, the referee may include one or more events in his encounter tables.” And “An event's purpose is to add interest, atmosphere and perhaps a bit of danger to the adventurers' travels.”

The party of adventurers have set up their Class E starport as the base point for a new colony. They venture out to explore the wilderness around the base camp. What do they find? The Referee should prep an animal encounter table. That table should include Event encounters.

What kinds of events should there be? Well, there has to be a reason that the PCs parked their ship where they did. A new planet has plenty of room to select from, so why that particular spot?

Monday, June 10, 2024

Establishing a New Colony - First Steps

How hard is it to set up a starport for your new settlement?

In my post about taking off and landing, I suggest that starships & pilots are used to landing at starports, with radio & radar guidance to ensure a safe landing. Starting a new colony on a new world, or just away from the existing port, landing can get tricky. It is still necessary to grow the new settlement. What else is there to do but build your own spaceport?

But what does that involve? As it turns out, not much, at least initially.

From Supplement 11, Library Data N-Z

[Starport type] “E,[is] (the worst, little more than a spot of cleared ground.)”

And we can put the fuel tanks right over there . . .

From the Traveller Wiki

In the short form of the Universal World Profile, ports are assigned a classification grade (A to E, and X) to the port facilities available in the system. This grade assigned to the port encompasses the services available in the port.

Class E: Frontier installation. Essentially a bare spot of bedrock with no fuel, facilities, or bases present.

From the unofficial supplement (MK-002) Starports! Credit to Rob Eaglestone, et al.

E. Frontier starport. With no facilities, the installation is little more than a flat expanse of bedrock and a sign. This designation effectively means there is no starport, but there have been previous landings and that location is indicated in records.

Each starport is characterized by a few basic elements: the Beacon, the Landing Pad, and the Traffic Control Facility. 
At the Class-E level, the beacon may be no more than a Continental Range communicator, perched on the roof of a shelter. The Equipment list in TTB includes communicators that operate out to Continental range of 5,000km. This range extends into Earth's exosphere. That is far enough to serve as a landing beacon. Traffic control is the job of whoever is manning the radio. A ship landing at a class E port will have the skies to itself; traffic volume will be very low.
The question of why your PCs want to set up their own starport is a topic for a post of its own. The actual cost in time, labor and equipment to set up a rudimentary port may be within the reach of most Travellers. Keeping it after it is built might be much harder. 
Have you ever seen this happen in play?  Tell about it in the comments.  

Friday, June 7, 2024

Abstract Combat with Book 4

My older son wanted to try his hand at running a mercenary unit. He's got a six month contract on Faldor, defending a town as unrest and civil war swirls around them. He's got about a platoon worth of troops and light vehicles.

His PC is the owner of the PMC “Wolfpack Security Corp.”, while an NPC is the field commander. His patron is the King of Pampati. A contingent of Pampatian Gath emigrated to Faldor to find work. The King is concerned about anti-Gath prejudice among the competing factions. Gath are genetically modified humans, standing 2.7 to 3.3 meters tall. Sounds like they could take care of themselves, but they moved there to work, not fight. Wrong place at the wrong time, you might say.

I've run most of his time so far as a set of random encounters as detailed in the Encounters chapter of TTB. A mix of hostiles and friendlies, government and rebels. A week or so back, a scout group from another PMC came snooping around their town. They exchanged shots before the scouts broke contact and retreated. They took one prisoner, who identified the group.

The People's Popular Development Front (PPDF) worked for the government, bolstering its forces. Then the PPDF leadership decided to renege on the contract. They saw an opportunity to establish themselves as a local power.

Last night we played out the next encounter with the PPDF. Three squads rolled into town to do “recon-in-force”.

We've been working from a sketch map of the town,

and I drew up a second hex map. The battle map noted important features like the HQ building and town gates. We both laid out counters for our units. My son's PMC is divided into about a dozen teams and squads. We did not worry about scale of the hexes, or length of turns. This is abstract, to resolve the battle quickly but without 'GM fiat'.

I added on a few simple rules to the abstract battle system in Book 4. Each turn both sides roll 1D and add the leader's Tactics skill. This is the number of counters that can move on a given turn. Each unit that moves can go one hex in any direction. This became an important factor for one side, later on. Neither side had Leadership skill on the board, but a Leader can make a throw to move a unit 2 hexes instead of one. (We'll see another time if that rule works well or not)

In the Avalon Hill game Antietam (part of the Blue & Gray series) the Union side can move only 6 of its 40+ counters per turn. This reflects McClellan's dithering during the actual battle. The movement throw added a variable to the game. It reflects the difficulties of command & control over a spread out force.

By the Numbers

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Signal Boost

 This is outside of my usual kinds of posts, but I feel like it's worth doing. While Traveller is my main game, it, like all other RPGs owes a debt to The World's Most Popular Role-Playing Game. Also, it is Good and Right to know your history.

Ad Fontes!

From Mr. Mollinson:

At the 21ish-minute mark, Jason launches into a very interesting story about pre-GenCon tournament D&D play.  What it looked like.  What players did.

SPOILER ALERT:  The #BROSR was right.  About everything.

Link to the issue of Europa:

Monday, March 11, 2024

Play Report - Gaming on Vacation

This past weekend my sons and I went on vacation to Charleston, SC. Saturday brought heavier rain than we anticipated. This curtailed our plans and kept us inside the hotel for a good part of the day. Fortunately, Dad thought to bring along The Traveller Book and some dice. We had a map of the Holtzmann's Corridor subsector, but none of my other notes. They chose to begin play on Armstrong's World, so were for a change not playing Imperials.

Keep in mind the following:

  • PCs were rolled on the spot

  • I used the random encounter and rumor tables, with results enforced

  • I used the reaction tables, with results enforced

  • I provided a little imagination for the details

In the span of just a few hours of gameplay, the following adventures happened:

Their PCs took ship as temporary crew by a Belter patron. They flew off-planet to a gas giant ring system and went ice asteroid mining. The mining expedition lasted three weeks of game time. The trip featured a near-brawl aboard ship with an NPC. A crewman got lost, a damaged suit almost killed one PC. On top of this, they still managed two separate strikes of crystal deposits. In three weeks of adventuring,they made a net total of 30,000 credits each. The patron offered to take them along back to Ferrocore, but they decided against it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

More on Careers - Barbarians!

 What does it mean to be a ‘barbarian’ in the Far Future?

Merriam-Webster defines barbarian as “a person from an alien land, culture, or group believed to be inferior, uncivilized, or violent”. Let me emphasize some of those words.  Inferior. Uncivilized. Violent

OED has several definitions. The most relevant two are:

A foreigner, one whose language and customs differ from the speaker's

A person living outside the pale of the [Roman] Empire and its civilization

With the general idea being simply ‘you’re not one of us, and that fact makes you inferior’.

For many fans of adventure fiction, ‘barbarian’ brings to mind Conan the Cimmerian. He wears hides & fur, and wields a sword. If you read Howard’s works, you find that the differences between Conan and the ‘civilized’ people have little to do with technology. Conan despised ‘civilization’ because he saw it as morally bankrupt. He was not jealous of their fancy toys.

This is an AI generated image
This is an AI-generated image.

We readers can also see Conan as ‘primitive’. Compared to 20th/21st century technology, Cimmeria was primitive. Compared to Aqilonia, they were not that far behind. Lack of sophisticated technology does not make one a barbarian.

Here’s another definition. Civilized is defined as “At an advanced stage of social and cultural development, usually marked by the existence of organized communities and an adherence to established conventions of behaviour; highly developed; refined and sophisticated in manner or taste; educated, cultured”


a relatively high level of cultural and technological development”

A modern New Yorker, with his smart phone and digital everything (TL 8-9) might think of the poor rural dweller in, well, anywhere that isn’t NYC, to be a primitive. He doesn’t have a smart phone and a Tesla model 4! He does have other accoutrements of TL 7-8 life, though. Cable television, modern medicine, new model cars, and a comparable public education.  All that it takes is one TL of difference. The label barbarian may be all in the eye of the beholder. Small-town man does not think of himself as a barbarian, or inferior to fancy-pants city man.

In my Church and Empire setting, from the Talaveran point of view, all the residents of the Corridor could be considered barbarians. Their tech is lower (how uncivilized!), sometimes far lower. They don’t speak Talaveran. They do not hold to Talaveran customs of behavior. Thus, barbarians. Barbarian can be no more than a term of snobbery, a means for looking down upon one’s fellow man. Pride of race/culture. I don’t present the Corridor worlds that way, and my play group has not adopted this attitude, I’m pleased to say.

Keep in mind, that Stavanger is TL-12 and Lanzhou is TL-13. Almost as good as the Empire, but still behind. But do they therefore not meet the definition of ‘civilized’? Of course they do! Mavramorn and VanGoff’s World at TL-10 out-do modern America. Yes, they’re civilized.

What I’m getting at is: think beyond the stereotype of the pidgin-speaking, melee-weapon, primitive barbarian. A barbarian can come from any world, at any tech level. They are a group apart, separated for whatever reason from the main government and society. They might come from a Subordinate world, or live out on the edge in Ungoverned Space.

Let us now consider the Barbarian career, both what it states, and what it implies.

Monday, January 22, 2024

An Interview with Marc Miller

 No, I have not gotten to interview The Man. But this guy Garry Snow did. Give it a listen.