SAFCOcast 18: Classic Traveller Combat, Mailbag, and other Stuff

Our main topic, inspired by one of our SAFCO Mail Bag submissions, is a discussion of the combat procedure from Classic Traveller.

We also go through some great mailbag submissions, discuss the Central Supply Catalog supplement for Classic Traveller, Timothy Collinson’s Generation-X Traveller book, and Internet Finds!

Thanks to everyone for listening.

Relevant links:

SAFCOcast 17: interview with Ken Patterson, about the upcoming Virtual Traveller event

This episode is an interview with Ken Patterson, regarding the event he and Greg Caires are organizing for October 2020 — Virtual Traveller: a Weekend of Virus-Free Roleplaying.

The event can be found here, on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1205944649744350/

Jeff and I had a good time talking with Ken! We appreciate him coming on, and hope you enjoy the interview.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 16

Well, after talking about the challenge of running five PCs rather than four, we added a sixth PC this game. A close friend of mine, who I’ve wanted in the campaign for a long time joined. He lives out of state, so going to Roll20 simplified this whole thing a lot as far as getting him involved.

I have come to pride myself on adding PCs to the game in creative ways. Or at least not just going “you meet this guy” and expecting the rest to invite him in. That isn’t really logical from an in-game perspective. It’s easy, but not graceful. So after the last session, in which the PCs got somewhat on the bad side of some dubious characters they’ve had dealings with, I realized I could use the new guy’s Streetwise skill to have him step in and help them in a late-night ambush by some thugs. That would 1)demonstrate his goodwill toward the team and 2)demonstrate some competence, and 3)give him a chance to meet the team on a positive note and give them his credentials. We didn’t do a massive roleplay of that first interaction, but it was sufficient to make things fall into place in a logical way. I feel that as the Ref, I need to provide some rationale for things like this to happen, and the players need to sometimes throw me a bone and go with the flow so everyone can have a good time. And my players do this, so I’m lucky.

It was fun to use the Whisper function in Roll20’s chat to communicate with the new guy on the sly, so he could be doing things while the others were doing their thing, and everything could be a surprise.

Once the fighting was over, the team took off in their ship for an expedition into unknown space. This was a good chance for the players with relevant skills to actually use those skills. Navigation became important, especially going into the unknown, so it was nice that the new PC rolled up Nav-2. They now have a good navigator, and two people on the team with Nav, so there’s a backup. The ship has been outfitted with new Scout-class scanning gear, so during the 3 week/2 jump trip to their first destination I had them make some computer rolls to search for useful gas giants. I let the one guy with Comp-1 make his skill roll, and then they could use his +1 when doing scanning rolls. The problem of navigating unknown space, and not wanting to be stranded with no source of fuel within a lifetime’s journey, is a real problem they had to contend with.  I knew I wanted them to have to think through this, but what I didn’t expect was that, in retrospect, it was a nice counterbalance to the typical RPG violence we started the game with. It also served to emphasize that yes, this is a science fiction space game, with the associated challenges.

I need to write up a standard process for scanning a parsec for gas giants, as I was coming up with that process on the fly. It worked OK, but I’d like to make sure it is fair and logical.

Toward the end of the session, when the ship went into combat with some unknown aggressive ships or probes, I ran that very cinematically, the battle happening in the ring system of an earthlike planet. We did some laser shots, the pilot’s skill and the one of the other guy’s tactical skill came into play, gunnery skill was in use, so most of the players were engaged somehow. I didn’t worry about the vector movement rules. I just rolled on the hit location chart when they shot the bad guys and applied some fairly cinematic results that were more or less consistent with the charts. A hit on the enemy’s maneuver drive resulted in that craft’s inability to change direction, and a couple of them went careening into large rocks in the planet’s rings.  I think that adding those kinds of details is important, and makes the game a lot more fun for everyone to visualize.

After the game, even though everyone had fun, I was a bit put off by the initial fight. I don’t want this campaign to just devolve into fighting and violence. We really don’t need that. While the fight served its purpose, and the PCs have certainly not gone all murder-hobo, it did get me to raise my awareness of where things are going and the need to keep being creative with problems and scenarios.

ITV Session 16: the Stowaway

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Having mustered out of the Merchant service after 16 years, 34-year old Arterhas Ralmard finds himself on planet Mylor, on the edge of known space, just where he wants to be. The frontier, where he can seek his fortune, seems more interesting than returning home, rimward, to the Anterion system, to run his parents booth at the giant space station’s market.

Art has just witnessed an attempted assassination of a noble in the Happy Gluck Tavern, at spaceport Mylor. The Baroness Galaxia Hood-Raxon, on tour of the frontier, decided to drop by a typical spaceport tavern, and only made it out alive because five “travellers” foiled the attempt on her life.

He watches as the travellers meet privately with the Baroness, and sees the gangsters the travellers had just gambled with hire some rough looking goons, obviously the ambush the travellers. As the goons leave, he follows them.

A couple of hours later, the members of SAFCO leave the Happy Gluck to return to their ship for the night. As the walk though the now-closed market, the six goons surround them and draw shotguns. A firefight ensues. SAFCO quickly dispatches most of the goons, but one steps out and holds Fardt hostage, a shotgun held to the gluck’s spherical body. There’s a shotgun blast, the goon drops, revealing Arterhas Ralmard standing in the shadows, his own shotgun in his hands.

The team notifies the authorities that there are criminals needing medical attention in the market, and meet Art, who it turns out is a great navigator looking for employment. They sign him on.

It’s a been a night of unusual violence for SAFCO, but they were acting in their own defense and the defense of others.

The next morning they take off on Zal’s expedition into the Void – the unknown – in search of Precursor secrets. 70 diameters out two imperial gunboats hail them. It seems the Baroness has disappeared, and they will board the ship so look for her. Zal talks to them, and they recognize the team as the group that saved the Baroness the night before. They let the ship go. To be on the safe side the team searches the ship. Lucky finds the Baroness in the cold berth room, dressed in a rugged cloak and outdoor gear. She announces that she’s going with them. The tour of the outer reaches was boring, and she’s lived a life of comfort and low-expectations. Her whole family, she states, has done nothing, but she will do something. Her interest in the research is real.

In his first official duties, Art uses his Nav-2 skill to plot an extremely elegant and efficient course to Zal’s System. The team is impressed. The ship reaches the jump point and with a jump flash they speed to Zal’s system, in the Void. During the week in jump space, they learn that the Baroness is highly intelligent and educated. She’s able to talk about nearly any topic that comes up. No wonder she’s been bored.

They arrive at Zal’s System and proceed to the moon of the gas giant where they first encountered the Little Reds, and where they left the Guardians. Art plots an approach to the system that will use the moon itself to shield them from the gas giant’s periodic radiation bursts. They land, spend a week refueling and maintaining the ship, and have a chance to check on  the Reds. All is well.

Their next destination is a system in which Zal believes there is a gas giant, based on his analysis of Precursor data. The team is cautious. That system is 3 parsecs away, and will require a Jump-2 and then a Jump-1, which is their maximum range. Should he be wrong, they could be stranded in the Void. They use their new Scout-class scanning system, once in space in Zal’s system, to search 2 parsecs out for gas giants they might find along the way. They find none. They make the first jump, spend another week in jump space. Scanning confirms a gas giant at their destination as they do drive maintenance in deep space. They make the final jump. Art’s navigation skills pop them out of jump space near the gas giant.All breath a sigh of relief.

They spend some time scanning the route to the gas giant, and discover they will pass very close to a  rocky size 7 planet with an apparently breathable atmosphere. They proceed. As they near the rocky planet they detect three objects on an intercept course. As they get closer the things appear to be cubes about 100 feet on a side. Roger begins evasive maneuvers.  They hail the cubes, but there is no response. They try the universal translator, still no response. They are now very close to the planet, which has a ring system with lots of big, chunky rocks and a moon. The cubes fire lasers, but miss. The Rambler returns fire with it’s two pulse laser turrets. First shot hits, damaging a cube’s maneuver drive. The cube spins into the ring system, smashes into an asteroid, destroyed. Joe suggests they use the rings as cover, makes his Tactics roll, and the teams gains a +1 on subsequent actions based on his recommendations. Roger dips into the rings. More shooting. The two remaining cubes fire, but miss again — very hard to hit a ship that Roger is flying. The Rambler fires again, blowing up one cube’s laser, and disabling the drive of the other, which is also destroyed in the rings. With the final cube defenseless, the Rambler emerges from the rings and fires, destroying it. Baroness Galaxia thinks this was all very exciting!

Safe for the moment, the team surveys the planet from space. It appears that the planet was bombarded in the distant past. Massive cratering now weathered and overgrown are detectable. They do not detect radiation. There are large bodies of water from which they could refuel.

End Session
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Elapsed game time: 216 days

 

 

SAFCOcast 16: Traveller Session Recap, Imperial News, Etc

In this episode we discuss their last Classic Traveller session (written recap here on Bob’s gaming blog). We also do Internet Finds, Imperial News, and Rules Finds.

Links and info from the show:

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 15

Well, this was an interesting session for me. I had a conversation with on my players, David, in email after the session. There is nothing private or personal in the email, so I’m going to reproduce it here, as it contains many of my thoughts about the session and our campaign in general.

 I don’t know how much harder it is to run with 5 players., but it sure is fun!  Especially with Jeff Lee purposely trying to throw a monkey wrench into all your plans.  I was initially feeling bad for hogging the show there in the beginning.  When Jeff and William went off in the corners, I didn’t want them to feel like me and Randy were cutting them out.  I didn’t get to use my sword,  but I’m glad the other guys got to do some combat.  Williams sniper position to cover the entire bar was a good move and his one shot really turned the tide on what could have been a very bad situation.  We were expecting something, but the second assassin singer was pretty impressive if it was improvised because the first assassin went down too quickly.

And here’s my response…

Running 5 is a bit harder. I try real hard to give every player a chance to shine in each session. More players makes this harder in short sessions. It’s not like D&D at that game everyone can pretty easily do their thing, in a dungeon crawl. Or Champions, where it is mostly fightly. So it is a lot more challenging at GM.

Another thing I struggle with is not railroading the game. There is a fine line between giving plot hooks and “forcing” the PCs to do stuff. My goal is to have a game with some purpose, but not completely dictate what happens. Related to that is the fact that I want to provide atmosphere, but I don’t want to just narrate the whole thing. So for instance I tried to use the parade to provide some context for the game and the campaign, but didn’t want to just talk for 30 minutes and not let y’all do anything. So I tried to cut it short but still have it be effective.

Really, I thought it went OK yesterday. You and Randy got to do some roleplaying with the whole negotiation and card game thing, William and Jeff got to shoot someone, and Jeff Lee got to tackle the second sniper and act crazy. So everyone, I felt, was engaged. I was really wanting to engage Jeff Lee, and had expected to have him see the first assassin move and he would be the one acted on it, but the PCs were all over the bar. So I adapted since Barney was on the balcony it made sense he would see that. The second assassin  was in fact planned.  2 assassins planned — I just didn’t know which PCs would be in a position to act.  I’ll reveal more about the assassins next game. What y’all didn’t discover was that the dagger was poisoned, and the mic-stand gun shot poison darts. Make an END save or die in 2-6 minutes without medical intervention. So the possibility was there for something real bad to happen. William got off a good shot, which was lucky.

I’m trying to create good NPCs. I always think back in the old days that is something I ignored. Maybe if I’d reffed Traveller it would have been different.

Having those maps is fun. Really useful.

Anyway, my players seem to enjoy this campaign, and I enjoy running it. I think it is the best campaign I’ve ever run, using any system. In a Facebook chat with the other players, I told them they didn’t have to stick to the threads there are obviously my “planned adventures.”  They can do what they want, and I have modular stuff that can be used and woven into the fabric of the campaign. William made the comment that it is the players obligation to engage with the game world. I agree. And it is the GMs obligation to create a rich setting full of possibilities.

ITV Session 15: the Baroness

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The team lands at Spaceport Mylor in the afternoon. Lucky retrieves the Universal Translator and the Drone from the Rambler-I.  Flint heads to the portmaster office and gets receipts for the fuel they purchased when they left Mylor months ago. The team needs to settle up with Reesus Peesus and Mergatroyd, who are expecting some profit from the asteroid raid mission. They think the PCs should have gotten a lot of weapons and ammo, which of course they did, but they turned it over to RCMP for a hefty reward. They had to the Happy Gluck Tavern to look for the dirtbags, but the place is nearly empty — most people heading outside the spaceport into the main section of Mylor City for tonight’s parade to celebrate the visit by a noble — a baroness – from planet Zapata.

The team decides to attend the parade. Zal remarks that years ago at Zapata University he had a student who was a baroness. They make their way to Main Street, where a tall, shielded platform has been erected on which the Baroness will speak and start the parade. The PAs announce “Ladies and gentleman and all sophonts,  presenting Baroness Galaxia Hood-Raxon from Planet Zapata!” The crowd cheers! Having nobility visit the frontier is a big deal. The Baroness is on a tour of the frontier, to reinforce to the fringes that they are part of the Imperium.  She waves to the crowds, says a few words, and starts the parade, which goes off without a hitch.

After the parade, the team returns to the Happy Gluck. The place is filling up with drinkers and gamblers, and a band is playing on the raised stage. The group gets drinks and relaxes. Eventually they notice Reesus and Mergatroyd playing cards at table. Roger and Flint approach, and beginning bargaining with them. Flint, as former RCMP, spouts off some bureaucratic-speak about them contact the RMCP HQ to get anything they think is theirs. They aren’t having it, but Reesus offers to play Roger in a friendly game of Qburt for all the loot.

While all this was happening, three Imperial body guards enter the tavern with Baroness Galaxia. She walks about, talking to people, and finally sits at a table adjacent to the one where SAFCO is talking to Reesus. She eavesdrops and hears everything.  Lucky has hung back, Barney has gone to the raised balcony area to keep an eye on things, and Joe is trying to get on stage to sing.

The Baroness turns around, looks over the table, and says to Reesus “Perhaps you would let me play you on their behalf, Chubby.” She’s been evaluting the situation, and taken a liking to Roger and Flint (obvious men of action) and a dislike for the somewhat loathsome Reesus. Rogers says it would be an honor to have her play for them, and Reesus agrees. They play. Reesus has Gambling-3, the Baroness has Gambling-4.  They will roll 2d6 and compare the outcomes for each round, high roll winning, after applying modifiers. To win the match, a player must win three consecutive rounds. The bodyguards keep an eye on the bar as they play. Against the odds, Reesus does win (player Randy rolls for the Baroness). The Baroness concedes, and apologizes to the team for losing. Reesus then begins driving home a very hard deal with the team. Galaxia, feeling the sting of the loss, says very sternly “That seems a bit…greedy…to me, Chubby.” The bodyguards give him a hard look. Sweat beads on his forehead. He evaluates the situation and decide he would do best by not being on the bad side of the noble. He agrees to half of the initial offer, and all parties accept.

About this time four ruffians enter the bar, blades drawn, and begin talking loudly about the nobles being leeches. The bodyguards take notice and move to intercept. Roger and Lucky start moving. Flint draws his sword to defend. Barney continues monitoring the situation from the balcony.

As this happens, a “drunk” from a nearby table stands and Barney can see him draw a dagger and head toward the Baroness. Things start happening fast. The crowd goes apeshit. Barney shoots the assassin with his auto pistol. At the same time, the singer in the band on stage takes her microphone stand and raises it like a gun. Joe is close to the stage. He jumps up and makes his Brawling attack, knocking her down the stairs to the main floor, dropping the disguised weapon, but not before she is able to fire at the Baroness. Her shot misses. Barney “convinces” her to stay down. The four thugs providing the distraction run, but Lucky shoots one as he flees.

The guards communicate with some Imperials outside to catch the three goons who fled. The Baroness has SAFCO and her guards interrogate the wounded assassins in a private room.  She notes that they knew where she’d be, and that this was a “spur of the moment” stop, saying that one of her assistants suggested it. She will have him taken into custody.

Vern, owner of the Happy Gluck, thanks the team for saving his tavern from getting a bad reputation. The Baroness joins the team in a private dining room, where she agrees to help fund Zal’s expedition into the Void after he explains his research, his first expedition with SAFCO, and what he hopes to find.

End Session
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Elapsed game time: 193 days

 

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 14

This was a short session due to challenges getting everyone sorted to use Roll20. One of the guys had mic problems, and we spent a good 30 minutes figuring out the issue. In the end he dropped out of the session, which was a bummer, but we needed to play. Later that week one of the other guys helped him get everything working.

Overall I like the Roll20 system. I’ve had no problems with my Mac computers using Chrome or Firefox. My PC-using friends sometimes have issues.

ITV Session 14: Danger Beneath the Ocean Floor

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This will be a short entry, as it has been a few weeks and I have forgotten some details, and because it was, in fact, a short play session.

From the last session: The PCs are submerged in an underwater cavern on Overon, having gone there so Zal could evaluate a site of possible archaeological value. Turns out there is no real value, but Zal and the others find some larval creatures in the mud domes they find in there cavern — “larva sack” like things put there by alien manatee-like creatures — creatures that have now surrounded them from above.

The team encounters the Ilikuwee, huge, blind creatures. The teams has stumbled on the creatures’ gestation pods, mud structures containing larval sacks.  Dozens of Ilikuwee are on the way. They  surround the team, blasting one of the miners and Zal with a sonic wave. The team flees, but the creatures are much faster and cuts them off. Once away from the larva, the creatures calm down, examining the team with sonar probes, and even reaching out to touch the diving suits with finger-like appendages at the end of their flippers. Communication is impossible. Eventually the Ilikuwee peacefully allow the team to leave.

The team rises back to the surface, and return to Overon City, and report their findings to Admin. Tilton.  They collect their pay, and set off for Mylor.

They spend 1 week in jump. Upon approaching Mylor, the Rambler-II is contacted by two approaching gun boats, explaining there is a visiting member of Imperial Nobility on the world and security is increased. The gun ships escort them in. They see a massive Imperial Cruiser in orbit. They land at Spaceport Mylor.

End Session
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Elapsed game time: 192 days