SAFCOcast 8: Agent of the Imperium, Participation Announcement, and other Traveller stuff!

In Episode 8 we start with Mailbag! Thanks to everyone who has contacted us! Then we move on to Internet Finds and talk about some cook things on the internet! Then we talk about Marc Miller’s Agent of the Imperium. A fun talk!

Random Traveller Planet Creation Smackdown! Roll up a Traveller or Cepheus Engine world/system, describe it, and submit it here! We’ll read the entries on the next episode! Should be fun!

Links noted in the show…

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 11

A few notes about Into the Void session 11.

To start, every time we play now I can’t believe we are this far into a campaign now. We’ve been running this campaign for over a year, and though we’ve had some months when we didn’t play, we’ve been pretty regular. The goal has been been to play once a month, and we’ve done the best we can to make that happen. Again, this was about a 2.5 – 3 hour session, which seems about right.

We started this session where we left off on the previous session. In preparing for this game I honestly had no idea what the players would choose to do. I had some ideas. There given a possible Jump-2, there were three planets in range of their current position on Uetonah. Two they had previously visited, the third was fresh. I worked up a profile for that world as well as some encounters. I figured they needed to 1)manage to leave Uetonah in one piece, 2)go somewhere else, and 3)they’d want to sell the very valuable salvaged starship power plant and turret. An exciting get-away was called for, and the NPC Fardt the Gluck would figure prominently in that. They still had a lot of options, but I was ready. I had some encounters that would certainly present themselves as well as some possible encounters to drop in modularly, depending on where they went.

All if this is to help me NOT have to totally improvise. I’m just not that good at it. I need some parts to play with, then I can do my job as Ref.

Before the next session I want to write up ten interesting, useful, entertaining NPCs I can drop in. I want to also create a new list of science fiction tropes to drop into the game, and as always I need to remember to be highly descriptive.

We used the Cepheus Light rules for vehicle combat/dogfights. They worked quite well. Ship vs. three security speeders. Very, very fun. I was happy to allow Randy’s character, Roger, to use his Navigation skill to plot a stealth course out of the system, using the planet’s one moon to obscure their route. I did a “hidden” Nav roll for him. He knew I was making the roll, but would not know if his attempt worked until they were either out of the system or in combat with some system defense ships. As it was, they succeeded and managed to get away without having the ship blown up.

I need to go back over some things in Traveller Book 2 regarding ship combat. Though we’re using the Cepheus Light rules, I still need to remember things like 1)do dual or triple laser turrets get two or three to-hit rolls per shot (they do?), or that 2)Pulse lasers are at -1 to hit, but each hit gets two damage rolls. Stuff like that. I think I got all this right during the game, but it would be nice to not need to look it up. It’s not that complex.

I’m allowing some pretty cinematic actions. I think it makes the game more fun. Like in this session having Flint down a security speeder with a rifle and electronic scope. that was really cool and fun. I let Barney, with Engineering-3, make roll to temporarily boost the Maneuver drive up one level and get them to the Jump point a little faster. What use is it to have a “miracle worker” on the team if they can’t do cool stuff like that?

Looking forward to Session 12. The winter is here, the weather is crap. Perfect for reading science fiction and working on games.

ITV Session 11: Escape from Uetonah

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SAFCO is still on Ueotonah, started where we left off last game. The rebels have, with the help of SAFCO, defeated Samson Mining’s defence forces, but now find their location compromised. They will have to move to one of the other base locations they have scouted out. The rebels quickly begin evacuating the wrecked ship. SAFCO evaluates the ship for salvageable components. The rebels will be taking one large piece of equipment — and autoDoc with its own power source. SAFCO looks over the ship, and Barney determines that not only could they use some of the grav-pallets and tools to salvage the working dual pulse laser turret from the wreck, but also the ship’s power plant, worth several million credits even after decades on the ground. The Jump drive is likewise salvageable, but too big for the limited cargo space in the team’s modified Freetrader. Since they have discovered their original mission on the planet was based on a lie, salvaging these ship components will make the trip and the danger worthwhile.

Barney radios Fardt, back on the ship, gives him the coordinates, and tells him to prepare the ship to come get the crew and the gear upon notification.

The team spends the rest of the day removing the turret and power plant components and prepares them for travel. They go over options for their next destination.They have fuel for one Jump-2, which can get them back to Overon, coreward to the unnamed system they passed through weeks ago for gas giant refueling, or rimward to AT201, an orbital shipyard orbiting a rocky moon of a gas giant. They decide they’ll return to Overon where Flint can report to his contacts in RCMP of the status of the mining on Uetonah, tell Nora Slimjack the status of her son, and get them back toward the frontier and the Void. They can also try to sell their salvage there.

Barney radios Fardt to bring the ship. The novice pilot makes roll the get the ship off the ground. At in-astmosphere starship speeds it will not take Fardt long to get there.

As they wait Fardt calls on the radio. He sounds panicked. “Guys, we’ve got trouble. They tried to close the bay doors so I blasted through them, and now there are three security speeders chasing me and shooting!”. The team can hear the chaos. The security speeders are faster than the ship and very maneuverable, but Fardt had a head start. The team knows the direction they’ll be coming from. They decide to have Fardt slow down enough when he reaches they for the team to ride their grav bikes right into the cargo bay and join the fight.

Flint uses his binoculars and can see the ship approaching as well as the pursuers firing lasers. Fardt’s flying is so erratic they have not managed, from long range, to hit the ship. But they are closing. The team gets on the bikes and they leave the ground. Flint calmly uses the electronic site on his rifle to take aim on one of the speeders. He fires and hits it, blasting a hole in the cockpit windshield.

Fardt gets to the team slows down, and they fly into the cargo bay. Flint stops and takes one more shot before flying into the bay. Again he sights-in on the cockfit, fires, hits the pilot, and the speeder goes down!

Roger takes the controls and activates the automatic turret, Barney heads to the engine room, and Lucky goes to man one of the turrets. Ronda, Fardt, and the robot strap in. Flint stays by the cargo door, hoping to score another sniper shot with his rifle if one of the speeders comes into view.

The ship enters the dogfight with the two speeders (We use Cepheus Light dogfight rules). The speeders have little armor and will likely blow up with one laser strike, but they are fast and very hard to hit. Roger activates the Manuver/Evade-2 program to enhance his pilot skills and Predict-2 to assist Lucky with the laser turret.

After two rounds of combat the team has missed the speeders with each shot. The speeders, meanwhile, have scored hits on the ships power plant and computer, reducing the performance of each. Finally they score a hit, blowing up one of the speeders, showering the jungle below with debris. Having lost his two partners, speeder pilot 3 decides to break off pursuit and get out of there. The team pursues, blowing him from the sky as well.

With no pursuers, SAFCO finds a place to hide on the planetary surface and attempt repairs to the ship. Barney is able to effect repairs to the power plant, using parts from the salvaged power plant, to return it to its Power Plant-B status long enough to get them to Overon. Lucky, with Barney consulting, is able to repair the computer.

Now the question — how to leave the planet? There are likely some system defense boats in the system. Best not to meet up with them. The planet has one moon. They consider their options, and decide to try using a carefully plotted trajectory out of the system, using that moon to hide their exit from the planet. The GM makes a secret Nav roll for Roger to determine how good the course is. Barney makes an engineering roll, and manages to boost the maneuver drive up one level for the time it takes the ship to get to the Jump point. The man is a miracle worker! Turns out their plan and course is good! They are able to exit the system to the minimum Jump distance without detection.

The ship reaches the jump point, and a course for Overon is layed-in. No mis-jump. The team spends a week in Jump Space. They arrive in the Overon system.

Flint reports on Samson Mining to his RCMP contact R. Tilton. Roger finds Nora Slimjack at the Mooch Mine and tells her that Jason is fine, and apparently on Uetonah of his own free will. Flint gets the name of a trader on Overon with whom to try to sell the salvaged turret and power plant. The team gathers for relaxation at the Mooch Mine. All is well…for now.

End of Session.

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7 days elapsed in this session
179 total game days elapsed.

What’s Up?

October has been pretty busy. We had to cancel our Traveller game last weekend and reschedule for this coming weekend, the first weekend in November. Such is life. I don’t like cancelling, but it was my fault! Had too much to do and not enough time, as usual.

I did manage to read three science fiction novels during October, which is always good inspiration for Traveller games and podcast topics. I read a Robert Silverberg novel called “the Man in the Maze” and two Dumarest of Terra novels. Nice and short. Good adventures, and fodder for Traveller sessions no doubt.

I did get the new Traveller 5 hardback books in the mail! I participated in the Kickstarter, and Marc Miller sure did deliver. The books are very nice, and at first scanning seem to be well organized. I’m sure there are some typos and omissions, but as Marc explained in his session at Lone Star Game Expo, this set is a toolbox. It is massive, but contains all the stuff you need and all that you MIGHT want. Kind of like taking all the old supplements and putting them in one set. I’m very happy with the quality. Not sure when I might use them. I’m very happy with the current campaign and don’t really want to go back and change things to T5.  But for a future campaign I might.

I’ve looked over a number of science fiction RPGs lately. Most are very setting-specific. Honestly, most are kind of dumb. They look like the could be fun, but they don’t look sophisticated like Traveller.

 

 

SAFCOcast 7: Interview with John Watts, of Gypsy Knights Games

After a quick review of the SAFCO mail bag and discussion of a couple of internet finds, we are honored to present our interview with John Watts, of Gypsy Knights Games, author of the Clement Sector and associated books compatible with Cepheus Engine and useful with any 2d6 science fiction RPG (our words, not his).

Relevant links mentioned in the podcast:

Marc Miller at GaryGon 2019
https://youtu.be/OCnMaR-mD-s

Stellar Reaches: Traveller site with great free PDF fanzine.
https://stellarreaches.wordpress.com/issues/

How to Steal a Spaceship”
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ePq88UEMkiQ83p4h86KKGBeRDJJE51g27u0ac8io2Wc/edit

New from Felbrigg Herriot:  Medico Service on DriveThroughRPG
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/290267

Traveller Con coming up – This weekend!  (Oct 11th)
http://www.travellercon-usa.com/schedule-of-events.html

Gaming materials created by Michael Brown
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/9030/Michael-Brown?term=Michael+brown

 

 

SAFCOcast6: Lone Star Game Expo

In this episode we discuss our recent experience at the Lone Star Game Expo, an excellent gaming con held in Grapevine, TX, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

We talk about the Classic Traveller session Bob ran, the Dungeon Crawl Classics game we played in, various seminars we attended, and the great talk by Marc Miller, author of Traveller and many other games via Game Designers Workshop and Far Future Enterprises.  We also discuss the new X Boat Traveller Fan Zine, some internet finds, and some new gaming purchases.

Relevant links mentioned in the show:

Bob’s Notes from the Marc Miller talk:

  • Marc comes in a bit early, sits down on the stage, and just starts chatting with us about Traveller.
  • Asks who had read Agent of the Imperium. I had. He mentions the Vang series, by Christopher Rowley. http://www.christopherrowley.net/novels/VangSeries.php
  • Mentions cosmopolitan nature of the Traveller universe, but notes that humans are still 51% of the population of the Imperium.
  • Mentions that he wanted (and has) an Alien Generator in T5.
  • Mentions various Traveller media projects. A
  • Possible Traveller “starter set”, similar to the D&D starter set, at retailers.
  • He considers the new T5 set to be a tool kit. “Want to do [insert something like robots} – here it is … pats the book.
  • Talks about world generator – using imagination to reconcile seemingly illogical world stats like low tech level with high starport level.
  • Talks about origin of the hobby in tactical wargames, how he learned gaming, “This is a great hobby to be in” “Good clean fun”. Talks about direction of historical wargaming having young guys who were enamored of Nazi kind of stuff – fetishized it – and he thinks D&D saved the gaming hobby, by providing a setting in which people can roll play sketchy/evil people but not have it tied to offensive, real world, horrible evil like the nazis.
  • question about all the dice rolling — why? (talking about the random generation of worlds, people, and creatures). Marc says that using that kind of random generation helps “allow interesting things to happen”.
  • origin and creation of the Spinward Marches
  • Beside Dumarest, Vang, what novels/series does he recommend and which were really super influential in the origin of the game. He says stuff by H. Beam Piper, Space Viking, Cosmic Computer, John Varley, Citizen of the Galaxy.
  • I comment that I appreciate that he has always kept the bar high — high standards. Traveller never goes low. Never incorporates creepy, sexist, gross-out, lowbrown stuff, and that from getting the boxed set when I was a kid the game was uplifting and “made me feel smart.” He says many people have told him the game changed their lives, and he appreciates that. Later in the talk, with regard to potential movies/TV, he reiterates his desire not to allow lowbrow lowest-common-denominator stuff (My words, not his) to be associated with Traveller.
  • Talks about Zhodani core expeditions a bit.

That’s all I got, folks. It was a 2 hour talk, and really fun.

I got a chance to really look at the new hardback Book 1. I have the PDF, and I found the PDF overwhelming. Looking at the book in person, I found it easier to understand. This isn’t an official review, but it this looks really good, seems well-organized. Looking at it as a toolkit makes a lot of sense. He mentions that it will be $100 for the whole set – compared to $150 for the 3 D&D 5e books, so its a bargain! Oh, the art is pretty good in the books. Mark mentioned that he prefers descriptive art in his books so you can see what things look like, as opposed to “atmospheric” art. The new book very much adheres to this.

Christopher Rowley: Novels — The Vang Series

www.christopherrowley.net

Jeff’s models!

Lone Star Game Expo 2019: Day 2

Jeff and I will be discussing our entire experience of the 2019 Lone Star Game Expo on an upcoming episode of SAFCOcast. We were going to record yesterday, but things got a bit hectic on one end and we had to postpone.

For now, I’ll just do a quick report. Friday was the day I ran Traveller in the afternoon. I met some great players, and they were very patient with me (three of the players are way more experienced Traveller GMs than I am). I’ve written about this in a previous post. It was great.

Saturday Jeff and I rode out to Grapevine together and played Dungeon Crawl Classics with a new friend, Jonny Daylett. We’d never played this before, and it was a crazy good time. Each player started with four zero-level characters. By the end a lot of PCs had died. Mucho fun. Thank, Jonny!

As we are not regular con-goers, we had not signed up for any other games that day. There wasn’t anything else I was that interested in playing, and I didn’t know if I could do 8-10 hours of gaming in a day. One 4-hour game seemed like enough. I’m sure if there had been a Gamma World or Champions game, or another Traveller game, or whatever, I’d have been up for it anyway. As it was, we went for some lunch, then spent the rest of the afternoon in some GMing seminars led by a fellow by the name of Raccoon. We got to his first session a bit late, which neither of us really likes to do, but time got away from us. We’ll discuss the seminars on the podcast next week. The essential are — 1)We were not 100% sure when we walked in how they would be. Raccoon was having some tech issues. He got the issues sorted, but as it turned out we didn’t really miss that much do to the confusion. 2)The rest of the seminars were informative, interactive, and fun. It’s just fun to talk with other people who are into gaming.  Again, we’ll get into this on the podcast. In the end I guess we did three of these seminars by Raccoon, and I enjoyed them.

We once again ventured out for food, returning in time to do the 7pm-9pm talk and Q&A by Marc Miller, of Far Future Enterprises/Game Designers Workshop/Traveller fame. As Traveller nuts, we’d been looking forward to this all day. Marc came in early and just started chatting with everyone about gaming and Traveller.  The room filled up. It was kind of funny to have Marc there, considering I was the only person who ran a Traveller game, but turnout was considerable for his talk so there is a lot of interest. Everyone knew this talk was going to happen,  but the time was not filled in on the schedule until a day or two before the con, so I suspect a lot of people were involved in games at that time as well. I know one of my players was going to run Traveller, but didn’t want it to coincide with Marc’s talk. Turns out Marc did a talk on Friday night as well, which I didn’t discover until Saturday morning, and I’d been checking the schedule daily.

More on the Marc talk – you guessed it – on the podcast. I’ll just say it was cool. We’ll post our notes on the podcast page as well.

We were both pretty wiped out after a 9am-9pm con day, so we bailed on the morning game we had schedule to play on Sunday. Note to self: maybe Sundays are not the best day to have games scheduled if you want your players to turn up.

Lone Star Game Expo 2019: Day 1

Today I went to the 2019 Lone Star Game Expo, in Grapevine, Texas. I took the day off (today was a friday), got up at a reasonable hour, printed some stuff out for the Traveller game I was running at 1pm, did some final tweeking to it, but mostly I thought about the game, the different permutations it might experience, and considered that I’d not even scratched the surface of the unpredictable creativity of five good roleplaying gamers. And that was fine. I knew my scenario, I had plenty of good nonplayer characters for them to encounter, and figured if I just keep calm and think about things the game would be OK.

My goal, of course, is for the players to enjoy themselves. This is the second time I’ve run a game at a convention. Not knowing any of your players is a challenge because you have no idea how they will play. Will they play fast? Will they take forever to make decisions. I had four hours to fill, max. I wanted the session to last about 2.5 to 3 hours. Beyond that I start getting tired as gamemaster. It takes a lot of mental energy to run a game.  Again, I was ready. I had a flexible adventure, with some encounters to drop in if things were moving too fast.

I had three players who were very experienced with Traveller. Much more experienced both as players and referees than me.  That’s actually a relief. The other two players had not played Traveller before, but were experience gamers, so no problem. Traveller is easy to teach.

Turns out the group was really nice. All really great gamers. Much like my normal gaming group, they were very deliberative and played it smart, and thus avoided a lot of conflict. I don’t throw a bunch monsters or enemies at my players just so they lose some blood. I like everything to make sense. A little excitement, a lot of problem solving and roleplaying, and conflict when it makes sense. Oh, and of course I love to present my players with a moral dilemma, and this game was no exception.

The session lasted 2.5 hours. It would have gone a bit longer if they’d not played it smart up front, when they chose to negotiate with a potential adversary and turn him into an ally. They did fight some alien jungle monsters, but again they used their resources and good tactics, realizing that killing the monsters wasn’t part of the mission, and managed to avoid serious injury. Games that don’t reward the PCs for doing unnecessary violence encourage that kind of gaming, which I like.

So thanks to John, James, Jonny, Cindy, and Greg. Y’all are great players, and it was a pleasure to game with you!

Afterward we had a discussion about Traveller and gaming in general, reviewed the game and their choices, talked about their own campaigns, and bid each other farewell for the day. Looking forward to seeing them over the next two days of the con.  Then I headed home.

Tomorrow is my “big day”. My friend Jeff, one of the members of SAFCO, is playing in a Dungeon Crawl Classics game with me, to be DMed by Jonny, who was one of my players today. Then later we’re hanging at the con, and going to some seminars, including one at 7pm by Traveller creator Marc Miller.

 

Sword of Cepheus

I’m pretty excited about this upcoming roleplaying game, based on the Cepheus Light rules, called Sword of Cepheus.

Cepheus Light is of course the version of Cepheus Engine recently produced by Omer Golan-Joel and Josh Peters. It’s a 2d6 science fiction roleplaying system that traces it roots back to the original Traveller RPG, which of course is my current favorite game to play or run. Sorry GURPS. I love you, but right now the simplicity combined with effectiveness of Classic Traveller really works for me. I’ll be back to GURPS soon enough. Got some great ideas that GURPS will RULE for.

So, you can read the link to Sword of Cepheus above, in which Omer describes the project. Here’s a link to an article by one of the recent play-testers. 

Why is this exciting? Well, clearly I like Traveller and Cepheus Engine. But more than that, I like the direction this is going. I’m going to come off as a big hater of D&D 5e here, but I have to say it’s pretty overblown. It’s a slick marketing product, has high quality books and playing aids, and man it is pretty, but it’s just … too much. I’ve played it, and I had a good time. But as a GM, I’m just not interested in the kind of setting it presents. This upcoming Sword of Cepheus Engine just sounds right. It sounds well-conceived. It sounds like a system for people who really love to create, kind of like GURPS is. And I say this as a person that just isn’t very interested in the fantasy genre. As this system is described I feel like I wouldn’t mind running it.

Anyway, there it is. Read it. Looks good.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 10

This last session was really fun but didn’t really go the way I intended, which is fine. The players did some unexpected things, to which I responded by planning variations to the planned encounters, which they then didn’t encounter for very logical reasons. Lots of fun stuff prepared and not used. No big deal. I’ll repurpose that stuff for future games.

That battle with the megabeetles went much longer than I expected. Giving the beasts a non-lethal but incapacitating chemical spray attack worked really well for making the encounter more interesting. A bit of flavor. Kind of a vomit flavor, of course, but flavor none the less. One thing to consider for the future is that giving a creature or character the equivalent of combat armor protection makes them really hard to hit. So if they have such protection, they don’t need that many characteristic points to obliterate. A total of 25 hits to be destroyed, if the PCs are using autopistols and autorifles, is plenty. That’s tough. It will take them two or three hits to kill the thing, at least. Likewise, having the character Flint wearing actual combat armor essentially made it impossible for the creatures mandibles to hurt him. This was good, since two of the rest of the group were down on the ground barfing, but could make it too easy for him to deal with adversaries in the future. Need to keep this in mind. As it turns out, the fight with the megabeetles was probably the most danger the PCs have been in thus far.

When we got to the big battle at the end (or potentially a big battle), the players had been smart enough to bargain with the rebels and repair the wrecked ship’s laser turret. I had planned to have the troops and the rebels have a big fight, but I was going to “storytell” most of that, and keep the action and die rolling at the PC level and maybe detail the actions of a couple of the important rebels. As it turned out, by blowing up the Grav Carrier with the ship’s laser, they were able to demoralize the bad guys and end the fight with no rebel casualties. More smart play from my players. They are really good at using their heads and solving problems without risking their necks too much.

Soooo…now the players are still on planet Uetonah. They realize the person they were seeking is there of his own free will. They will certainly be able to salvage that working dual pulse laser turret, so that’s going to provide some nice income. The issue of whether the Pachyderms are sentient and can be proved so is unresolved. An NPC that is involved is still unknown the the PCs. Lots of stuff they could discover, but should they? How much railroading do I do? I’m thinking none.  I still have some encounters ready on Uetonah, but these can be reassigned to new game sessions. I’ll prepare for the next game assuming that the PCs will salvage that turret and get off the planet. I expect the next session may involve a lot of bookkeeping and and logistics for the players.

This was game session 10. I’m very happy to have been running this campaign this long.  I think the story is developing nicely. We all seem to be enjoying it. Once of the nice things about Traveller is there is no monster manual. While there are standard ship  designs and weapons, it’s much less cookie cutter than D&D.  This makes it a lot easier for the referee to keep the game surprising for the players. What fun is exploring the unknown if all is known? The players have been to just a hand full of planets thus far, all near the frontier.

An issue that Jeff Koenig and I have discussed is the nature of money and banking in an interstellar setting with no FTL communication. I asked for advice on the Traveller RPG Facebook page and got some really good advice and ideas, kind of in line with what we were already thinking.

A combination of encrypted “debit cards” – unhackable and super secure – that can be “charged up” with credits at an appropriate bank where the PCs have their funds stored. Funds can be added directly to the cards themselves at points of transactions or even card to card, and then stored in a secure bank at first opportunity, or sent there directly via x-boat. The imperial x-boats, in addition to mail, carry banking and financial data that is updated at each stop.

Because “commerce is the glue that holds the Imperium together”, there are incredibly harsh punishments for financial crime, and super effective detection systems for such crime. All this makes the system work well. Because no one want to get in trouble for jacking with the electronic system, card robbery is also very rare. Crooks may steal currency, but not cards. They’ll not even force a card to card transaction, as these are super traceable. Local currencies must conform to Imperials standards. Actual physical currency can be carried. Some ships carry commodities that can be traded in a pinch, precious metals, etc.

This is all “background” info. All our PCs will need to determine is how many credits do they keep on their personal cards at any one time, and if they have other commodities they can trade aboard their ship. So – each PC needs to keep a total for credits in the bank and credits on their card. If a card is lost or destroyed, the money is gone. Players will probably want to keep some actual Imperial currency on their person.