Monday, March 8, 2010

Enter Traveller

I can count on one hand the number of Total Party Kills I've had as a Game Master over the years. Friday night, I almost added one to that number.

I won't go into all the gory details, save it to say the group rolled two of the worst watch encounters back-to-back I have ever seen. The first, a vampire, they managed to mist and drive off (thanks to some quick thinking from the Friar and company). The second, however, was a Behir, and it overwhelmed the group entirely. I ran both right out of the book, and there was a small window to flee, but Friar Charles and the sorcerer Vas both went down permanently. The dwarven cleric Nalgin was rescued by Antigus the Druid, who escaped along with the (new party member) Valrayan the Ranger thanks to their (eventually) displaying the better part of valor.

I felt bad, but that's how the dice roll. It was just a matter of luck running out--no more Mulligan stones, no more d30 supercharge rolls. Just eating it, in a big way. But if there isn't the spectre of catastrophe, you don't have any suspense. I still think I'll be second-guessing a few things for a while, but to overuse a phrase, it is what it is.

Our group had already been discussing playing some different games before this all happened, and this was a pretty good to suspend the Castles & Crusades game for now. We all talked, and we were mostly all ready to try something other than high fantasy for a bit. So, next time, one of the guys will be running a one-off Deadlands session (I get to play for a change!), and the session after that, we do group character generation for Mongoose Traveller.

I'd also like to run Thousand Suns or the new In Harm's Way: StarCluster (which I'm still digesting) eventually, but almost no one in our group has played Traveller before--it's a gamer rite of passage. There's also some demand for Rolemaster, but I'm waiting on some things before I run it again, and the idea was to get away from fantasy for a little bit. I also still have my alt-history/pulp Two-Fisted Tales game under prep/research, and I think we'll get to it. I think the group agrees--there's just too many great games out there to be married to one game into perpetuity.

The basic idea is that all the players will be Imperial Navy, stationed on a science vessel that was part of a small fleet "showing the flag" in a little-traveled backwater full of warlords and hostile aliens. A surprise rebellion destroyed the entire fleet, save this one science vessel, which had to remain behind at a remote starport for vital repairs. Now, an entire sector of hostile space separates them from home.

One 600-ton science vessel vs. an entire hostile sector? A mismatch, I know. It doesn't seem fair to the sector...


Barking Alien said...

Sounds solid. I look forward to the recaps. I'm a big Traveller fan (albiet classic as opposed to Mongoose) and I 'm glad to see it getting so much love on the blogosphere.

Maybe it should be my next game too. We'll see...

jonbrazer said...

sounds like fun. good luck with it. please keep us abreast.

clash bowley said...

Your last line reminds me of a comment that one of my players made in my long running American Navy IHW campaign. He said: "I hope they (the US government) declare war on England. I could take London with six men in a rowboat."

The phrase 'six men in a rowboat' refers to the time during the Quasi-War with Frnace that he actually did take a 20 gun corvette with six men in a rowboat, but since then the PCs had defeated Tripoli, planted 2 colonies on the coast of North Africa to supply them, and put an ally, a Bedouin Sheykh, on the throne of Siwa in Egypt. It wasn't a totally idle boast. :D

Anyway, Good luck with this enterprise, and if you have any trouble digesting IHWSC, I recommend Tums.


Zachary The First said...

@BA: Man, I love Traveller. It’s still the standardbearer for imperial sci-fi. But I am really hoping that we can do either Cold Space, Thousand Suns, or IHW: SC soon. Traveller is a gateway game, in that sense.

@JonBrazer: Several JonBrazer products will be used in our game, actually! I’ll be sure to give a shoutout when we do!

@clash: Nah, I’m sure IHW: SC will go down smooth. It’s this lump of white fat instead of a brain that I have that slows things down. ;)

I love the “six men in a rowboat line”, clash! I’d love to work in some of the “trade a grievous wound for survival and awesomeness” rules, like in IHW! I’m picturing the Traveller characters a little more competent than normal chargen usually produces. I need to get across the idea that these characters are part of the freakin’ *Imperial Navy*. Not some puny planetary navy, not the minor-league sub-sector navy. Some lot of puffed-up warlords want to threaten them? 1 ship or 1000, their answer would be the same.

clash bowley said...

With Traveller, I would recommend doing four things to bring home that these guys are members of the IN:

1. Increase their stats. These guys are not slacking retirees, they are in their prime, and kept in excellent condition. Give them like 4 more points for physical stats. They will lose these points when they muster out and get pudgy. :D

2. Give them access to equipment people not in the military cannot get. Armor, weapons, analysis gear, computers, and slick toys. Make sure the other side just can't get them.

3. Give them more skills. Maybe they lose these too when they muster out, due to disuse, but these guys should be ultra competent while in the service.

4. Give them access to assets and a fierce reputation. They can access computers, networks, etc. using buried backdoors. They can requisition whatever they need so long as they can justify it later. They can use Imperial assets already in-place. They have wicked street-cred, and bonuses to intimidation.

These together should enable them to handle what needs to be handled, if they are smart and lucky.


Tipsy said...

I GM'd a very fun MGT game last year. In my experience it ran pretty smooth without enhancing anyone's stats, but I dig the 'normal' guys in extraordinary feel of the game.

Are you using the Naval Careers laid out in the High Guard book? Given your campaign description, it may be worth it.

Actually, the specialized career books are really the only supplemental material I would recommend for MGT.

Zachary The First said...


1. I’m doing a standard array, I think, of 5, 7, 7, 7, 8, and 9, plus two points they can put where they’d like. We’ll see how that works.

2. Oh yes, that’s ship’s locker is going to rock!

3. I'm thinking of giving two points after chargen to be used in skills of choice. I'm also using one of the campaign skill packs in MongooseTrav, which ensures basic profiencies needed aboard a starship. Plus, they can make Connections for a bonus skill rank (max of two, I should think).

4. I like this. I need to make sure I play this up. Not every world will be in rebellion, and some should be able to be cowed. The Imperials are elite, that needs to be stressed.

My thanks. That's some rockin' advice there, sir!

@tipsy: I am using the High Guard supplement, as it really gives some great IN career options. I think that and the main rulebook will be the only required books for the campaign.

Man, there's just something about running Traveller again. It's so exciting!

Verification: Sowlysat--an instrumentation device measuring how much like a female pig a person or object is.

Tipsy said...

I gotta say- MGT's connections rules are among the best elements of this version of Traveller. Nothing motivates players to come up with a shared history like a skill point or two.

Plus, its useful for the inevitable introduction of a new PC in the aftermath of another PCs death or a new player.

You know, something like this: "Fest? Is that you? Gentlemen this is Lt. Asgrid Fest. We surived the Kolgrath Abyss togther. Now lets see if we can all sure survive the next 48 hours."

Are you using any experience rules?

clash bowley said...

Glad I could help, Zachary!

Tipsy - the advice was based on the LBBs, which is the only version of Trav I have run or even read, and I haven't run or read them for at least 25 years. Trav was my first love, but I'm no longer enamored of her... :D

Verification Encyclopedia: Trini - an indigenous inhabitant of the Trine system. Found on all three habitable world in the system, it is not known how they got there, as none are native to the worlds they inhabit, and the separate cultures are at most at a Neolithic level. See The Trine Conundrum.

Zachary The First said...

@Tipsy: Honestly, I’m just not sure. I’m not sure I like any of the variants I’ve read. I think I might just do a very simple rewards system, based on what the players concentrate on the most.

Greyaxe said...

Hey, haven’t had a TPK recently but as a Rolemaster GM I need both hands and a foot to count them all. (Although between MERP and Rolemaster it’s been 23 years) I did have a great big FAIL on the part of two younger tanks in the game. They both decided to attack a mercenary assassin. Who was in full plate and wielding a 2HSW. Each decided to use a secondary weapon, with no parry and both lost init. These guys typically wash the floor with mid level threats however with a few bad rolls they fell one after the next. What was amusing is they did it in order. Warrior #1 runs in, secondary weapon, no parry, looses init, suffers fatal and debilitating wound. Warrior #2 see this, chooses secondary weapon, no parry runs in, looses init and suffers an instant death. Warrior #2 was resurrected with the only tool available, but warrior #1 dies from complications and a few bad rolls on behalf of the group healer.
I felt no remorse.
The encounter was not random, but this particular group has never learned to work cooperatively. There mage was ambushed, as he was the target of the assassination attempt, and taken out of commission temporarily with good use of spells, stealth and poison (he was unconscious). The mercenary assistants were all killed off, with one exception, but at terrible cost. Had the party rallied together and organized they should have had an easy time of it. But that’ Rolemaster. The one guy the party let go, was the mercenary warrior who killed of two party members. So I gave him a name rolled him up an now he is a random encounter, (perhaps not so random in the future) MWahahahah.