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.

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.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 13

Like most of my Traveller sessions, this one was long in the making. Jeff #2 was joining us, finally. He’s a regular member of our gaming group, who due to other gaming commitments had never been able to make the Traveller game. So I had the challenge of working his PC into the game in an interesting way. I came up with several ideas but didn’t like the flow of most of them. Too much idle time for him. I settled on starting him 56 years in the past, and putting him in cold sleep for the PCs to discover floating in space. This worked out quite well. It was fun, and it surprised everyone involved.

Without going into details (they are in the previous post), the PCs decided to have some modifications done to their ship, so I got them started on an adventure on that same planet while they wait for their ship. Coming up with non-combat challenges is fun, but you really have to work at it. After the game last night I was watching a Netflix documentary series about the astronaut Scott Kelly’s preparation and 1-year stay on the International Space Station. In reality, everything one does in space is difficult and super dangerous. In a science fiction game perhaps EVAs are easier, but they should still be dangerous with little room for error. Which is all to say that having Vac Suit skill can really get the PCs into some entertaining trouble.

I felt like in this game, especially setting them up for the on-planet adventure, there were some spans in which I just telling them what happened a bit too much. This can help move things along, but in the future I’d like to have them roleplay through some of those parts a bit more.

Once they got down into the undersea cavern, I changed things up quite a lot from the plan I had typed out last week. Weird how sometimes better ideas present themselves during play, and the resources you have prepared need to be altered during the course of play.

Regarding the ship mods. The group agreed to just have Jeff K and I work out the modifications and cost outside of the game. This kind of thing can eat up a lot of actual playing time if you let it. They had hoped to upgrade the ships drives, but in Classic Traveller the fuel requirements and volume of the faster drives would leave almost zero cargo space. They opted for reducing the number of cold berths by half and decreasing the extra Jump-2 fuel to only an extra Jump-1, thus gaining some cargo space. I had reasoned that the Type-A Freetrader would not be equipped with the variety and quality of sensors available on a typical Scout ship, and as this is a very exploratory campaign, they agreed to spend some credits for a massive sensor upgrade.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 12

Atlas class freighter from Independence Games (link)

Session 12 was short and challenging to come up with and run. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how best to bring an “occasional” player character into the game for one session and make it feel organic. I’ve decided this coming year to have two or three guest players for sessions, and toward the end of the year bring everyone together for a big blowout. I can’t really deal with more than four regular players — it all just gets too complicated, and it is harder to get everyone together. BUT, having some guest players is a good thing.

So, our guest player was running the character Reginald Stormbringer, an ex-army badass. I spent a week making notes of game ideas and not liking any of them. Since it was a guest player session, it needed to be kind of a one-shot. It needed to have some action. BUT – I also wanted this game to set up a return to the unknown of the Void.  So I decided to put their old friend Zal Twist, the Exo-archaeologist, in harms way onboard a hijacked freighter, and have him meet Reggie onboard.

The trick to this session, and the mentally exhausting part, was keeping the flow moving with Reggie on the freighter and the players on the planet, whilst moving them toward a meeting point. It wall worked out, we got them all together, they saved Zal and the rest of the ship (though the freighter crew was all dead), and had a pretty good game.

A few notes:

  • Reggie got hit once by a submachine gun. They really hurt. Nearly took him out. Lesson learned, I think. Don’t get shot.
  • I think non-combat skills are really fun, and very necessary, in my game. They might be more helpful, in fact. On populated worlds it helps if each player has some kind of social skill. Gambling, carousing, admin, streetwise, bribery, whatever. Gives them some nice options.
  • I need to encourage my players to really explore crazy options that make use of all their skills. I had Flint make a Tactics roll and gave him some suggestions that resulted in Barney using his Vacc Suit skill to gain them access to the freighter.
  • It was fun to bring the Fast drug into this game, and to use Basic (the nutrient drink from the Dumarest novels) to revive Reggie after cold sleep.
  • Most of my players are long-time veterans of D&D and Champions. They are very much used to knowing their character sheets really well, and knowing how to use their skills and spells to greatest effect. I think because the Traveller PCs are so simple looking on the surface my players are not sure how to really take advantage of their skills and gear. They are still doing well, but I think they might have more fun if they were a bit more familiar with their characters and gear. I’ll help them develop this by putting them in difficult situations and let ’em depend on their own creativity to resolve things.
  • I still need to start bringing the character histories into the game more.

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.

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.

 

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 9

This game was supposed to happen last month, but life got in the way and we had to postpone. It was worth the wait. Lots of fun. We met yesterday (Sunday) at our usual spot, Madness Games & Comics.  As is my habit, I got there early to get us a good table. One of the employees noticed that I was setting up for an RPG and suggested a table near a column in the store, where I could put the GMs chair at the head of the table and not block an aisle. Nice guy. I struck up a conversation with him, telling him how much we enjoy the store and appreciate the free gaming space, and that each of us always tries to buys something after we play to help support the place. He told me they really appreciate it, and that there are a few groups that not only don’t buy anything, but leave a huge mess at the gaming table. Well, those people need to be taken out and publicly caned. Madness it the BEST, and needs to be supported and respected!

Anyway, back to the game. I’d had some time to plan this game. As usual I’d gone through numerous versions of the session. Numerous possible trajectories for the story. I knew I wanted some really fun action in this session. Last session was nearly all roleplaying, which is great, but we needed some violence. The trick of course is to lead the PCs to the action in a way that makes sense. They still had some work to do finding clues to start leading them to the person they were seeking.

In the olds days I hated having the party separated, but with my current gaming group, over both my campaigns, I don’t mind it too much. Of course eventually I want the team united, but I don’t mind moving back and forth between two or three groups of PCs now. I just make notes, and try move from one group to another pretty quickly, giving them all something to do. This was particularly useful on Sunday, as the team was split into three groups, all looking for clues in different ways. I had four clues ready for them, and was able to work two of them into the game successfully since the team was working this way. I was on my way to discovering this kind of GMing technique for investigative games, and then the GURPS Mysteries book articulated it really well. That book has great advice for GMing investigative games, regardless the system. I recommend it.

The other advice I’ve taken heed of lately — well — I can’t remember where I read this, but it’s to have a third party involved in the story. You need the heroes, their adversaries, and at least one other entity or organization that can provide help, hindrance, information, or otherwise simplify/complicate the story (or in this case game). In the case of my game, I’m using some NPC organizations to let me, as GM, give the PCs a bit of help when they are stuck, but it all fits in well with the story. It’s taken me decades to really learn this simple lesson.

So, we had some nice action during a grav bike chase in the bioluminescent Pachyderm trails through the jungles of Planet Uetonah.  I used the same rules I homebrewed for the mining pod close-quarters ship combat we used in Session 7. They work pretty well. I don’t want our sessions to turn into tactical ship/vehicle combat that slows everything down, and these rules are doing the job. They keep the game moving, offering just enough structure that I’m not just “making stuff up.” The players have some agency and results are still determined by the dice.

The players, of course, threw me a few curveballs. I had a much more complex layer of tunnels through the canopy above the Pachyderm trails I was hoping they would enter, but their use of grenades against their pursuers was very effective. I used that noise of the grenades as the reason the giant snake creature inhabiting the upper system of tunnels was attracted to the action, and it then of course chased them. I made it damned hard to kill. Took a lot of grenades to put it down, and even then it was only unconscious. Tough bastard!

I had lots more stuff planned but we ran out of time. Rather than rush through more stuff probably mess up some fun encounters, I stopped the session a the three hour mark. Plenty left to do in late July, and time for me to modify it more and make it better.

I’m loving this game.

 

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 8

Wow, eight games! For some reason if feels like a milestone. It’s hard enough to make the time to game and to get the guys all together, but it is worth the effort. The Sunday afternoon game time seems to still be a good time to play. I would love to play more than once a month, but it’s rough. Weeknights are not good for most of us, and weekend time is at a premium.

Ready to play last Sunday!

This last session involved a lot of bookkeeping for the PCs, trying to decide how to split the loot and/or reward for the stuff they obtained in the last session. Lots of deliberation. I was worried they would be bored with it, but of course it was their decision to spend that time, so I just let it go for quite a while. They were in Jump Space, so they needed something to do.

Anyway, they are now at the beginning of a new series of sessions, and as usual their activity has given me lots of ideas for things to do in the next few games.

I was reflecting on the nature of Classic Traveller yesterday, as I often do, and was thinking about the benefits of a game that doesn’t really have experience levels or experience points. When I played this game nearly 40 years ago the lack of a substantial progression system seemed like such a bummer. Now I think it’s great. Really keeping track of the passage of time in the game allows the PCs to take advantage of the very long method of improving their skills, but doesn’t make it the focus of the game. It also means that you don’t have to begin a campaign by slowing getting the PCs “up” to a level where you can have the “real fun.” They don’t start out super-powered, but they aren’t weak either. This is always an issue with D&D. 1st-level characters are so easy to kill, and since the game is so combat-centric I think it’s a real problem.

So as the GM, I find it very liberating to not really need to consider the experience level of the PCs when designing or running a game. They are skilled humans. If they get shot with a plasma rifle they will probably die. After four years of play, they will probably still die if hit by a plasma rifle. It frees me up to do what I want with the game, and not focus on levels or experience points. It also allows us to take our time with the campaign. We’re not rushing through this. We play for about three hours, and when I think we’re at a stopping point, we stop. I go home and think up the next few encounters, problems, and challenges. It all just makes the game a lot better.

All of this, however, also forces me attempt a lot more creativity in the campaign. I swear, for each session I spend a week coming up with ideas, making notes, writing up the session only to start over, then on Sunday morning before the game I get up, sit at my desk in state of panic because I don’t like what I’ve got so far, and then it all comes together. I assemble the pieces I’ve got, come up with contingencies plans, think up some NPCs that might be memorable, and the game seems to be enjoyable to the players and to me.

I do think that in the future I want to give the players a little less accounting stuff to do. That tends to bog things down a bit. Once in a while it is alright, like last weekend, but certainly not every game, or even every four games.  All four players need something to keep them engaged at all times, and I feel like this last game I dropped the ball on that a bit.

Oh, here’s something I found on one of the internet groups for gaming — an article about Lester Dent’s formula for writing an adventure novel. Dent is the author of the well over 100 Doc Savage novels. As an early teen I read about 70 of these books. They are formulaic but entertaining. I had read that Dent had a formula for writing these, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. I think there is some good advice for writing RPG sessions here. Granted, it won’t all work because the players will nearly always do something that you don’t expect, but I think the overall direction of this formula (as well as some of his other advice) might allow a GM to create a nice “filter” to run sessions through. A list of elements to make sure you include. I have made an effort since returning to gaming a few years ago to be a lot more descriptive of location and atmosphere in my cyberpunk and science fiction campaigns. I think I’m going to go through the Dent Formula and make a list of elements I want to be sure to include in every scene I write. It’s just too easy to get going and forget these things.

On a different topic! While preparing for our game Sunday at Madness Games & Comics, among all the Magic the Gathering and D&D players I noticed two guys setting up to play the Fantasy Trip, using the massive and super cool new boxed set from Steve Jackson Games. I was so happy to see someone playing this! I went over and met the two guys who were there, Bruce and Scott. Really nice guys. Bruce told me he’d played a lot of GURPS in years past, and we spent a bit of time talking about such things. He said he recognized my name from online stuff, which tells me what I already knew – I spend way too much time online – but it is nice to make a face-to-face connection!

So, we all connected on MeWe.com, where a lot of the old Google+ groups have migrated. Bruce is sharing writeups of his gaming session, and they are brilliantly written.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 7

Session 7 presented a couple of challenges. First among them, how to integrate a new PC into the game in a way that was fun, made sense, and enhanced the game. My friend David is the new player. He and I got together last week and rolled up his character. David wrote up a really nice character background and motivation, which helped a lot. Gave me some good motivations for the PC and a good way to drop him in.

Second, I wanted to have a cool ship battle. Starship combat in Traveller, run by the book, is quite boring. It’s like a tactical wargame, watered down, and really lacks the excitement of a dogfight. There are no rules in the basic set for close ship combat, at least not the kind you see in movies. And let’s face it, that’s the fun stuff.

So I made up my own very simple system. I assume a very abstract time frame. We go by turns, all action happening simultaneously as is the Traveller norm. But no defined time increments. Each ship can move as many units (squares or hexes) as its maneuver drive number. Any hard maneuvers require a pilot skill roll. A hit by lasers inflicts 1d6 damage points. When a ship takes 6 damage points, it has to roll on the normal damage tables in the books. The mining pods only have a total of 6 possible damage points, so when all 6 were gone, the pods exploded.

By thinking of the whole thing in more cinematic terms and using this very fast moving system I was able to let the players all be involved in the fight and use their relevant skills. While Roger was skimming the walls of the mine cavern walls, Barney was working to boost the slow Free Trader’s maneuver drive power to better deal with the very fast mining pods. Meanwhile, Flint and Lucky were manning the two laser turrets and blowing up the pods.

OK, sure. Not very detailed. Not a tactical wargame, but that wasn’t the point. My goal was to have a fun, fast moving ship combat that created some excitement and got all the PCs involved. I think it worked.

Traveller this weekend

We’re playing our Classic Traveller campaign this weekend, and I’m very happy to be adding a new player to the mix, my friend David. My current group are guys I was friends with in highschool and I was an occasional participant in their games. Great dudes. This new guy was one of my main gaming group. He’s really excited to be gaming again, and I think it is going to work out really well. I’ve been meaning to invite him for a while, but as I am “the new guy” in this group, I wanted to run it past the lads and make sure they are good with it. They are, so it’s on.

Dave and I got together this last Sunday to roll up his character. He did a really nice background, which will allow me to drop him into the campaign immediately, and in a fun way. None of the old “this guy just shows up and wants to join your crew” sort of thing. Gotta make it cool. The background of his PC is also helping me delve into the nature of another subsector, which is fun.

More after the game. I’m just really happy about this.