Sunday, March 31, 2019

Death Test - Triumph

Despite being down to three characters, two of which were badly wounded, they managed to survive. Now they did avoid the bear room, then after that, kept going west. So they only had to cover 7 rooms. But - the last room had a giant. One hit and it would be instant death. The characters tried to run out the door, but bounced back. This was their first, and it turns out, only time, they tried to avoid combat. Well, it was a giant!

Fortunately, giants have a pretty low DX, 9. And in the 4 combat rounds he never laid a club on anyone, and each of the remaining three fighters managed to score hits and whittle him down to size. Leaving that room, they found stairs and past that curtain, the recruitment officer.

Almost 400 points were given based on the kills. These are divided by the original number of fighters, 6. The remaining three only made recruit (but fast recruits!) as they managed to avoid a fair amount of combat by going straight through. So they garnered 70 experience points apiece, not even enough to bump a single stat.

Next round, I will have 4 higher caliber fighters go in and see what we can do. And choose a different path.

Ahh - a giant! Run away!

Bounce! Ahh, a giant!

That giant sure was clumsy!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Death Test - The Fantasy Trip

The big box showed up, and my characters keep dying. I started with 4 random fighters from the deck of cards. These cards are great: all you need to know about the character for combat at least, and being wet/dry erase, you can easily track their stats as they inevitably go down.

My first foray into the Death Test had four fighters. Apparently bears are really tough and hard to kill (wow, just like in real life!). My four fighters did not make it out.

My second foray is on going. I started with 6 fighters. One has been killed by a human fighter, one by a gargoyle, and the last one was just offed by a goblin. I am down to 3 characters, 2 of which are heavily injured. My guess is that the next room will be the final for them.

I either need to start with a larger party, or bump up some stats. This Death Test is not a test, it is just a fact!

And the mat ends up being a lot more useful than I would have thought. The ref screen has most of the info I need as I've not played in 30-40 years.

Bringing the box to the next gaming session. We are probably playing Delve, but who knows.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Patron Encounter

Players: 2 - 6
Equipment needed: none
Skills needed: none, but recon, survival or hunting would be useful
Patron Type: Scientist
World: something with a breathable atmosphere and at least 30% water. The starport could be anything really but there needs to be enough people to have at least a small local population as well as a fair number of transients but large swaths of raw countryside. As well as a local university.

While at the port and enjoying the sites, the Travellers are approached by a bedraggled looking older man, waving what appears to be a cryogenic test tube of some sort. He asks for some a few moments of their time.  Sir Reginald Artani was a well-respected archeologist, but in the last few years has been searching for what all others believe is extinct, the Mega-Duckahedron that was native to the planet more than a million years ago. He has lost his tenured position at the university after declaring that this extinct giant duck was still alive in the hinterlands. He exhausted his personal finances after losing his job, and is now searching for someone to help prove his theory.

Should the Travellers take some time, there is indeed a very large feather in the test tube. Should they research this at the university they will see that it does match fossil remnants of the 8 foot tall duck dino. Sir Reginald has satellite maps of the location where he found this, a journey of several days via air/raft or ATV  He has an ancient ATV large enough for 8 people. He will split any proceeds from the discovery with the group, and swears he has potential buyers in the millions of credits range for a live specimen.

1. All is as he says: there are a few groupings left of this large feathered dinosaur duck. The maps, searching, finding, capturing and returning a live specimen is up to the referee. While not millions of credits, several hundred thousand will be provided.
2. All is as he says, but there is just the one remaining animal (hey, it happens in movies all the time). Same as (1) above.
3. There are no living dinoducks left, but there are remains that are only a few hundred years old, hence the well preserved feather. Perhaps a few thousand credits reward for helping rewrite the local research on the local fauna.
4. Sir Reginald is deluded, and someone is playing a cruel hoax on him for something he did years before (failing a student? didn't approve a published paper?). Nothing more, nothing less. Just lost time for all involved.
5. There is no dinoduck, and someone is out to kill Sir Reginald. Once out in the hinterlands, there will be a lone gunner who is not too picky about who he kills.
6. Sir Reginald is the con man for a slave labor group in the hinterlands. Once miles into the wilderness, they will be surrounded by armed gunmen and taken as forced labor in an illegal crop farm.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Shared Universes

Way back when I started playing RPGs in college, the Traveller game we ended up playing a lot was a sort of shared universe. Going from the books before there really was much of a Third Imperium, we created the D'Arlee Quadrant. Not sure who did what, although I think I did most of it. But I also think we alternated refereeing and playing between myself and a friend of mine named Chris.

The Asheville Gaming Club is full of interesting people, and I've found a new friend there that also played Traveller (well, I think he has) but also played The Fantasy Trip. Daniel and I've talked about doing this a few times now, and I think we will try & do something. As this is a fantasy world setting, we may play other fantasy games that can go into that. So this blog, while still mostly about Traveller, may be expanding into trying to describe a shared universe.

Fortunately, the world of Cidri from the Fantasy Trip is a humongous world created by people no longer present. The theory behind this was that published adventures could tale place, but travel far enough or by gate, and a completely new world was basically available.

So I'll try & expand out my little maps from college, which I have posted previously, and also dig up my notes as to what I was thinking. I had a complete small booklet of the various areas. Mostly were based on the miniatures I kept buying: I just got 3 centaurs, so, look, Centaur Island where there are herds of them! I just got a box of skeleton warriors - look, there's the Terrorlands where all sorts of ghoulish things live!

I also want to get better about rumors - just learn to be able to hint to the players that there may be something worthwhile. Drinking at the inn, they overhear one drunk mentioning that his second cousin's third uncle got lost looking for Stuboon's final treasures, somewhere up near Woodfall. And yes - Woodfall was another Kickstarter that is a point-crawl sort of thing with some really interesting possibilities (the recently successful Amazon Island will also be making its way here, so somewhere I need to establish the island).

I also found I had a complete theology involved, for at least my section of the world. I'll write that up at some point as well.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Kickstarters and Traveller

Kickstarter has been a boon to the gaming industry, and a bane to my wallet. Another boon is the advent of digital publishing: there is far less overhead to publishing a PDF versus a physical book. Although my preference is for physical books, as I can read those without power or an internet connection, and loan them out to friends and around the table.

My first Kickstarter was Traveller5 - got the signed hardback, extra dice, the electronic version on a jump drive (I could not resist!). When that BBB (Big Black Book, to differentiate from the LBB - Little Black Books I've cherished for decades) showed up, it was an exciting moment for me. Regardless that the game in the book was not actually playable as such, there are some really fantastic parts and pieces in there I've used in a few places now.

Then a deck plan came out with a mini of the Grendel. It was the Beowulf essentially - between the clever play on words and the really nice 2 sided poster and the mini, I was in. And now I am a super-backer, meaning I am spending way too much money on Kickstarter.

However - I have several Traveller things I never would have bought otherwise: the Great Rift set with some wonderful maps I will sometime be able to bring to the game table, the Element Cruisers set which are used in the Pax Stellar system (missile pods - 5000+ missiles should be enough to take care of the planet!), Traveller collectable card game (still now really sure why I got that other than a Traveller & Kickstarter addiction) and now a Journal-like publication from a long time Traveller fan, Rob Eaglestone. While geared towards T5, most Traveller stuff is interchangeable by filing off the serial numbers. That last one also made me start going back and reading the stuff I already have for Traveller. I;ve got most of the CDs as well as a lot of the classic stuff in print. Plenty of things to mine and use, and simply enjoy.

I've also got a few other things that I may yet be able to use in various games. But I do have a bit of spare money and like to help those creative people who have the guts to go out on a limb and try to publish cool things.

And one of the larger Kickstarters showed up this week: The Fantasy Trip. I don't have all the additional things yet (the add-ons are shipped separately) but that was a big box. I've been playing Death Test. My first party of 4 died in the 2nd room, killed by 2 bears (bears are tough!). The next party of 6 is up to room 6 or so, but 2 have been killed off: a gargoyle managed to kill my one bowman, and a tough fighter killed off poor Bran. This Kickstarter came with erasable character cards, so I've been playing with those for the characters in play, using the actually prettier than I thought it would be Melee mat, and the Melee rules and game pieces as well as my ancient miniatures.

I'll try & take a picture next time: I play for an hour or so then have to put it back in the big box. Cats, you know! But this is both fun and practice for me: I hope to not only continue the Traveller game, but also do a Fantasy Trip game. As previously mentioned, one of the other gamers in my group played as well, and also got the I Want It All pledge, so we have plenty of material to go around. Plus I have most of my old rules as well, so there are multiple copies of the rules to go around.

The X-Boat Kickstarter that I am really looking forward to:  XBoat Zine

Sadly also backing the Mongoose Journal one although I probably already have at least half of what is going into this:

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Random thoughts

Poking around sites and found Riftroamer's site again. A lot of great Traveller and other 3D content. So a picture of Big Bertha, the truck that transferred the cargo pods from Warehouse 31 to the Anomalies Run (see for his cool stuff). Although I think this is a little TOO big if that door is any indication!

Also still thinking about restarting for about the 15th time the Traveller Tracker. Maybe make it Mac compatible via the .Net Core. That would make it more of a command line took rather than a Windows GUI. But sometimes I just get tired - being writing code for almost 40 years and maybe I need a change of pace, try something different. But it is what I do for a living, and sometimes it is still fun. But programming without a real audience or expectations is somewhat pointless to me. I do keep Visual Studio updated at least...but so much for my plan of getting a Windows Store App out. Plus I really want to revamp the whole thing. Again. I just don't want to get started it seems. Although I have been doodling for a revamped, more generic cargo system (last version was trying to be version specific, now I am thinking an interesting hybrid. But then it becomes house rules and who would want to play with my rules?)

There was some conversation after the last game session about longer games. This was from one of the younger players. The way our group works is we usually have 2-3 concurrent games due to the size of the group. We alternate between 1 and 2 month sessions. Most games try to be "complete" by the end of the session. I managed in the 1 month intro game to actually complete that particular Traveller adventure (4 sessions covered character creation and two days of in-game time). Then we did continue that for a 2 month session one month later, but only got to the end-game on the last session and it was not actually completed. We did have chunks of people out sick and so I slowed things down a bit to try and get everyone in on the last and not-quite conclusive session. Hopefully we will be able to continue that game - I think there is potential there. And I think I am getting a bit better at refereeing. Other than combat...In college we played pretty much the same campaign for about 2 years, off and on. Somewhere I think I still have Scout Nathan Brazil (hey, I was reading the Well World series at the time and thought the name was cool). A short fat guy who had a lot more charisma than I did. I based his physical appearance from a character in one of the Journals (JTAS 09):
And entirely unrelated to Traveller, turns out another of the players in the group also got the Fantasty Trip I Want It All set. I believe that we will be able to play a few rounds of In the Labyrinth at some point this summer - between the two of use we'll have at least 4 copies of the game. And that game has a very well-defined combat system. Kinda looking forward to that: I am hoping we can do a shared world where I can play sometimes and he referees, and then the other way around. In the same world. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Call of Cthulu game

Taking a bit of time off from refereeing Traveller, and got into at Call of Cthula game. I don't know if I've ever played this or not, probably not as it seems entirely unfamiliar.

Rolled up a character (and I need to bring more D6 to the game) and ended up with Professor MaryAnne Gilligan of Briarcliff College. Rolled the dice and gender was female. In 1929 women had only been allowed to vote for 9 years (1920 at the national level), and I poked around and found a women's college that is in the New York area at that time. MaryAnne would have attended during this time (from the Wikipedia):

Around 1917 at Mrs. Dow's School, an art assistant taught classes in drawing, painting, and modeling. In addition to their daily tasks, the students prepared monthly compositions which would be critiqued by the school's art director Frank DuMond through a lecture.Art history classes included that of Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture, Western European painting, and the history of Greek sculpture, architecture, and interior decoration.

MaryAnne took a stint internationally at some archeological sites despite Mrs. Dow's recommendations, and has come back to teach as a professor there while still going on the occasional dig.

Born in 1900, the Professor has seen several changes in society, and is thinking that things in the financial world are not going well. She tends towards jodhpurs to the alarm of her fellow teachers and the delight of her class.

Image from Marc Scott:

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Game retrospective

Some things went well. Some things not so well. Over all, the players did indicate that they had a good time so that's a positive!

This second play at Traveller was more of a sandbox than the first pre-generated adventure we ran. That one was more experimental to see if I could interest some of the gaming group into playing Traveller. And that was a yes, and they wanted to continue.

One of the major differences in a science fiction RPG and fantasy, in general at least, is the scale of possibilities. In most fantasy games, you have one world that everyone knows regardless of the actual game. Fantasy in the Western world is well covered and follows the same general tropes regardless of the actual game. And most fantasy games your goal is to level up: become stronger, more powerful.  Science fiction games, particularly Traveller, is a lot more open-ended and the player goals are necessarily different. You can expand one system, indeed one world, into a complete universe to play in (and if you've been reading along you can see a lot of that: I tend to really enjoy world-building and entirely ignore the T5 MOAR, Map Only As Required, suggestion. But then: I really enjoy it for its own sake).  Player goals in Traveller can vary greatly: exploration, personal wealth, bigger guns. For players steeped in the more traditional level-up mentality this can be a difficult hurdle at time. And the universe is a lot larger in many ways: you can travel the worlds.

I think I needed to make more clear that Traveller really does have different goals and a different mindset to play. We had players ranging from wealthy and high social (the doctor's mother was the Imperial presence on D'Arlee and the doctor herself is a 40% owner of the very large for players lab ship Anomolies Run. And we had a couple of barbarians, a wanderer and a true barbarian, at the other end of the social scales. And of course some Scout and Navy people). Traveller goals tend towards more of a monetary process for the most part I think: traditionally the players find a patron who will pay them for a job. So our second adventure started with the Navy willing to pay expenses and more to transport our barbarian and help figure out Pax Stellar. Money...and perhaps more once if we continue that adventure. Traveller is about travelling in the end, exploring the universe we are hopefully creating jointly (one of the players named the mechanical life the metals: that was great and the sort of thing I like. Why, back in the day when I played Traveller as a player, I also helped create the universe we all played in. Or at least I like to think I did as 30+ years may be fogging reality with wishful thinking!)

If this were a Star Wars game, or a Star Trek game, most players would have more than a passing familiarity with the game universe writ large. Traveller, on the other hand, is both blessed and burdened by a 40+ year history of world building across thousands of planets and thousands of years of history. And my game was a sandbox game in my old college universe, so even less familiar with players, even those who had played Traveller before.

I think over the course of the last several sessions we did establish the baseline for the Imperium: it has rules, it commands over space, and it has its own interests. It is a high-technology society that eschews artificial intelligence and large-scale automation, as well as fearing psionics. Fairly traditional Traveller.  We are playing along the fringes of the Imperium but the players still played by the Imperium's rules. I think what I did miss pointing out is that the worlds may be part of the Imperium, but have their own governments and rules. The Imperium's rules may or may not apply, and their presence on the worlds is often limited to the starport. That was my fault. The previous games I played I think the same issue happened: good Imperial citizens who stuck by all the rules even on planets where those rules may not apply.  My solution to this will be to write up even more information about the D'Arlee Quandrant and how it interacts with the Imperium. And the Imperium is not necessarily the good guys, especially away from the Core.

Things I need improvement on are playing the NPCs. One good piece of advice I've read is to only do one NPC at a time: no NPC to NPC conversation. The players don't want to listen to me talk to myself!  I managed to bypass this later in the game by giving a summary of any possible conversations. And playing NPCs I did not generate seemed to also be more difficult: I want to maintain whatever the author of that adventure had in mind. But: it is now MY game (or rather, OUR game!) so I need to let that go. I had a good time playing the sheriff /mayor of Q'antar, that rootin' tootin' gun slinging woman who may be seeing about getting a pilot for that Scout ship the planet of 10 now owns. And some advice on the COTI forums was also well received, so I try to have a card of the NPC with some info on it when using that character's voice to help the players know who is actually talking.

And as much as I really like having a more physical game, the attempt at the bar with the Lego and large map did not pan out as I expected. I think if we do get into combat, then I can bring out the maps and figures if we need to. Or play entirely in our minds. And I think I need to practice combat in Traveller (and actually pick a version as there are several options to choose from: Classic, range bands, Mongoose, Striker, Snapshot, At Close Quarters...) If we do try a more combat-oriented game I will need to have flowcharts or helpful handouts to let the players know what options are available. I do think that they enjoyed their ID cards, though, and the doctor really enjoyed waving around that test tube full of venom at various NPCs. And I do have so many maps - my Kickstarter addiction has caused me to get things that I may get to use yet...This also applies to space combat: I have a lot of little spaceships, and they are fun, and were useful in some instances. I just need to have a more holistic or natural way of integrating these in when needed. RPGs are games of the mind. Won't stop me from amassing far more things than I will probably ever use (I've actually got 2 games I got purely for the minis I think!) but I'll try and make sure that it is not the focus but an aid to play.

There is probably more I am not thinking of at the moment, but this post has gotten long enough. I now need to find some image to stick in it - posts with images are just more interesting...

Quick view of Subra, home of Qat, born there on 241-1075.  A small world with a very thin atmosphere and less than 10% free standing water, Subra is a non-industrial poor world of about 40,000 people living under a variety of governments. It is a high-tech planet though.  Perhaps the reason Qat left to wander in the first place - there appears to be a lot of dirt and not much vegetation! And growing up under the dim red light of an M2 star means that the planet itself is in the primary orbit and has a very fast year! So just how old is Qat in cat, err, Subra, years?!

Subra / 0511 D'Arlee Quadrant B231477-C  Naval Base M2 V

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Pax Stellar - the Adventurers Arrive

We jumped over the week long trip in jump space, just noting that it is a good thing that there is a gym on the ship as Shenna, the Navy engineer, was going to town with the fresh food supplies.

Upon arriving in Pax Stellar space, they are met with stern Naval radio messages. Indicating that they have an Epsilon Indigo clearance, they are piped immediately to Admiral Mira Wescott. Normally a small task force with interdiction duties does not require the presence of an admiral. However, the nature of Pax Stellar and the risk and potential to the Imperium cannot be underestimated. She is one of a few dozen who know as much as there is to know about the system in the local task force. Pax Stellar was the primary system in the ancient empire, and has the most interesting and puzzling technologies. Admiral Wescott maintains a berth in the Crucible station in ring sector one in the VIP quarters. She has the Anomolies Run crew meet here at the captain's office near the main control section. A brief conversation about Osrum and the actual plan: get to the power anomaly using Osrum as an ambassador. So far the Navy researchers have been stymied and cannot approach closer than 70 kilometers or so before they are blocked. The group agrees to continue to escort our barbarian from Planet Bob back to his home world.

After a refreshing meal in the café, under the stars, they take a bumpy ride down planet in a Nirvana class drop ship (thanks Robert Pearce - see Yet Another Traveller Blog in my list for his fantastic work). It is a bumpy ride down - the pilot wants to go as fast as possible to avoid any catastrophes and technology failure. They pass by a large, whale-like floating filter that synthesizes hydrogen from the atmosphere, and manage an abrupt stop at research station two. There are the sounds of the pod release and son after, the sounds of the drop ship attaching to another pod and leaving as fast as possible.

The rear of the pod drops open and they are met by a field researcher, an ex-Navy flight officer who is now researching the weird science of Pax Stellar. She and the admiral do not get along, and Esther Inchara calls her Iron-Face Westwood.

They get into the steam powered ATV, and with a toot of the steam whistle, off they go. The power source is only a hundred or so kilometers from the research station, and as they approach the only pass into the area, they are blocked by a mountainous "metal" as Osrum calls them (image from Michael Murdock's Dr Mordecai Crowley's Journal of Interplanetary Travels which was a book from a Kickstarter that ended up being the source for images for Pax Stellar.

Osrum gets out to communicate with the vast creature. It takes a few tries, but eventually, an hour or more later, the gargantuan creature moves out of the way, and with another toot of the steam whistle (Esther swears it is necessary to calibrate the steam engine. Honest!) the steam-powered ATV trundles forward. A bit later, they come into the open area in the middle of the mountain range, where there are native buildings and humans working the fields.

One of the better dressed humans comes up, speaking a language no one, including Osrum, can understand. However, a few minutes later the leader speaks perfect Anglic, telling the Travellers he has been expecting them, and that Gerdy, their god, is waiting upon them.

Leaving the ATV behind, the group treks a few kilometers to where they see what appears to be a modern building, a large communication array mounted on the roof. The natives had built housing from the native stone and timbers, and this building would fit into any modern city. For a 3,000 year old building it was in remarkable shape.

The High Priest, for that is their guide, explains that they drop off offerings, often requested offerings, to Gerdy. Our group gives up some jewelry and knickknacks they have to a small robot, that then disappears into a small elevator.

The walk around the building to the front and enter. There is a foyer just past the front hall, and a holographic image welcomes them.

And then we ran out of time.

Not sure when this adventure will be picked back up - there are several other games in the queue so we'll just have to see if people will want to continue or not.

Next post I'll try & do a post-mortem on the game. What I think I did right, what really needs improvement.