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

1 comment:

Jackie said...

Craig, you have a good assessment of the pros and cons of your game -- both from the point of view of the players and of you. (Though you may be too hard on yourself!) I think next time we play, we may be able to plot our own goals now that we know we can. In one fantasy game in which I played an elven archer/mage, I also discivered she was also somewhat of an entrepreneur. She invented the shopping mall, advertising, and all kinds of other things involving marketing and small businesses -- and I only discovered that through playing her!

You're doing fine with NPCs, you just have to loosen up and fit into them. When you play multiple NPCs, you might need to script some conversations at first. Nicky is one of the few pppeople who can juggle multiple NPCs with conversation between or among them. As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and look forward to more sessions. I think Iva may continue to pursue her love of sports and physical action further ... tto what end, I don't know.