ITV Session 3: Showdown in Space

IY 6025.246

The scouts begin this game on the surface of the moon, on which they have investigated the Ziggurat temple and its observatory upper level, obtained the robot, and taken a data storage module.  They attempt first aid to the Scumbags from whom they saved the natives. Roger uses his Medic skill – failing his roll on Croyd, the leader. Croyd will bleed out and die. He makes the roll on the others. They keep the Scumbags restrained.

They know that Croyd’s ship is still in orbit, and is likely bigger than theirs. Iron Balls McGinty confirms this, noting that they are dealing with a modified Type A Trader, with 2 double laser turrets. However, most of the crew is here on the ground, leaving Ronda, the pilot, and 3 crewmen in the ship. The PCs need to get Zal Twist back to Mylor to complete their job, but realize that with the enemy craft in orbit they may not make it to the jump point. They devise a plan.

Roger realizes that the Scumbags’ ship must be parked in orbit, using the moon as a shield against the periodic radiation bursts from the planet.

Having bribed Iron Balls to join their crew, Lucky and Barney take him, the Robot, and Fardt up in the Scumbags’ landing craft. Iron Balls reports that he’s returning with the injured Croyd — that the “marks” were tougher than they looked — the rest of the crew is dead. Ronda believes him and sends him coordinates for the current location of the ship. The landing craft leaves the atmosphere and after some time approaches the ship. Ronda opens the bay doors for the lander, and they touch down in the small hanger.

As this is happening, Roger has taken the Scout ship (the Rambler) just beyond the horizon of the small moon. When he gets word that they are about to board the other ship, he pops out of the atmosphere by surprise, with Zal manning the laser turret. Now, Zal isn’t trained on the turret, but the goal isn’t to hit the trader, but only to cause a distraction for the pilot. Zal screws up and hits the enemy anyway, disabling the traders’ maneuver drive. Ronda, using the automated turret, scores a laser hit on the Ramber, hitting the hull. The ship begins to depressurize. Roger and Zal put on their vacc suits. Roger continues to use the maneuver/evade program to avoid further damage, no knowing that the trader is now incapable of maneuvering.

Back on board the Scumbag’s ship, the boarding party guns down two of the remaining crew members in the shuttle bay (“I never liked you anyways, Jonesy”, says Iron Balls, as he blast his former crewmate). Iron Balls leads them to the hatch down to the main crew deck, which is guarded by “the Crab” an alien crewman resembling a huge crustacean. The crab is, sadly, outnumbered and outgunned, and is quickly rendered unconscious. They open the hatch and go down the ladder, finding themselves right in front of the door to the bridge. The door is locked. They need to get in there. They know they are in a damaged ship, but have no idea what the damage is. They need to end this before either of the ships is further damaged or destroyed. Iron Balls voices concern that Ronda might depressurize the rest of the ship, in which case they are screwed. They order the Robot to use its immense strength to open the door, but as the Robot moves to do this, the door opens…

Ronda, the pilot, is standing in front of them, hands up. “I surrender. This ship is dead in space. If it takes one more hit we’re all dead. Call off your attack before it’s too late.” The Scouts contact Roger, who tells Zal to stand down. Disaster averted.

Now — what to do? Both ships damaged. While Roger lands the Rambler back at their original landing site on the moon’s surface to make repairs to the hull and take on more atmosphere, Barney uses his Engineer-3 skill to get the trader’s maneuver drive working again. It won’t last forever, but should hold until they get to a proper space port. They land that ship on the surface too.

So, they have two ships available, but also a bunch of captured Scumbags. They are able to keep all of them from bleeding out. They can’t leave the Scumbags on the moon. They may get loose and cause problems for the natives. They don’t want to kill them, or take them into orbit and space ’em. Scouts — good scouts — don’t do that kind of thing. So they take them all onboard the trader and put them to sleep in that ship’s cold berths. They keep Ronda awake, locked in a state room. They’ll have to deal with her at some point. They recognize her as former Scout who was kicked out of the service years ago for a breach of ethics.

Both ships leave the surface. They spend a day in orbit, as the trader carefully avoids radiation bursts and skims fuel from the gas giant.  Zal connects the alien data module to his mobile computer, interfaces it with the ship’s mainframe, and continues investigating its mysteries. Together the ships begin the journey out to the jump point, at which point they plan to jump back to Mylor, deposit Zal there, collect their pay, make proper repairs to both ships, and go underground to change the traders’ registration and transponder so that they own it. They may need a company name.

That’s the plan, anyway…

Elapsed game time: 11 days

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Elapsed game time: 15 days

ITV Session 2: In the Temple

IY 6025.245

The PCs, archaeologist Zal Twist, and Fardt the Gluck cautiously enter the ziggurat. As they enter, the giant columns inside slowly begin to glow, illuminating the inside of the huge structure. While it is big, the inside is very simple. Zal deduces that it is a place of worship. Of what? No telling. Hieroglyphs carved into the massive walls depict star systems. Roger attempts but fails to use Navigation skill to recognize the formations. Zal believes they are probably unknown systems of the Precursors’ past.


As they proceed into what is apparently a temple, Roger helps Zal to photograph and catalog the glyphs for future analysis. Lucky and Barney continue to explore the temple and discover  a dusty but apparently undamaged robot. They examine the robot, determining that it is of fairly common manufacture. Not a precursor artifact.  They drive the air raft into the building, and use its system to recharge the robot. While they do that, Fardt had been fiddling with a stone control panel on top of a slightly raised section of floor. Slapping a hand on top, he activates the section — an elevator. A door in the ceiling opens, and he disappears into it as the elevator reaches that level.

As the robot continues to charge and the others continue to study the carvings, Roger manages to find a control to bring the elevator back down. Fardt reports that there’s a whole control room of some kind up there. When asked why he didn’t just come back down, he says he was “looking around.”

Lucky and Barney manage to reactivate the robot, which speaks galactic common.  It is apparently a survey robot, sent to this temple some 450 years before, by an unknown source. It ran out of power while waiting for it’s party to arrive. Learning that 450 years have passed, it agrees to complete its survey mission by joining the PCs crew.

The party, including the robot, take the elevator to the upper level, and discover an astronomical observatory and data center. The walls are still carved with similar glyphs. A huge glass sphere occupies the middle of the room. The PCs discover what they surmise to be data storage media — polyhedral objects arranged in sequence. Zal makes his archaeology roll, and figures out the newest one. They put it in a player and activate it, as the glass sphere lights up with a hologram of star charts. Manipulating the data unit, the image changes to diagrams of what look like living cells, separated by space, with beams of light flickering between them. Further tinkering brings into view a star chart/hologram of the galaxy from a very wide view.  The PCs are able to see the Great Nebula of the Void in one place. Some distance from it, a glowing dotted line and arrow hang in space — pointed toward the Great Nebula. A trajectory? Who knows?

Zal wants to take that data unit back to the ship, where he has gear to analyze it. They load everyone, including the robot, into the air raft and take off back for the ship.

As they approach the landing site, Barney rolls and the party gains surprise on the scumbags from the tavern back on Mylor. The ones who told Zal about this planet.  From the edge of the woods, they use binoculars and see that the scumbags have a bunch of the natives held captive, and few are dead. Not good dudes. They see that the scumbags have come down in a landing craft, suggesting a larger ship in orbit.

The PCS come up with a plan. They’ll used the element of surprise to do a high speed drive-by of the bad guys, taking out as many as possible. Clearly, they are not there to be nice. I have them roll for 1-3 rounds before they are in close range. They roll 1. They manage to come out of the forest quietly, then roar toward the bad dudes. They exchange gunfire. The robot shoots electrical bolts. One bad guy hit. It’s Croyd, their leader. He’s hit bad enough to be rendered unconscious. Roger is hit, but his ballistic jacket keeps him from taking damage (shot “misses” due to jacket).  Round 2 – Roger, Barney, and Fardt (who is borrowing a shotgun) all fire. 2 more goons go down – Iron Balls McGinty and Tommy the Gimp. Lucky is driving, and runs right over the serpentoid henchman, Glych. The bad guys are all alive, but out.  They tie ’em up. The natives lavish praise on the PCs for saving them. Iron Balls regains consciousness. Displaying no loyalty to his colleagues, Iron Balls offers to give the PCs info on the ship in orbit, to help them get past it. He says if they don’t check in by tomorrow, the pilot will probably come in and blast their ship from the air. He wants to be a temporary member of their crew, and be promised safe passage back to Mylor. They agree.

End of session. Players are already devising their next moves for leaving the planet without getting shot up by a potentially larger ship.

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Elapsed game time: 12 days.

ITV Session 1: New Beginnings, New Adventures

This session was dedicated to Eric Manuel, a friend from years past, who died recently from cancer. Smooth sailing old friend. 

IY 6025.234

This was the first game of my classic Traveller campaign. Been trying to get this started for some time, and today was the day. We decided that our gaming group would do these games in short, 2-3 hour sessions, to make it easier for everyone to get together and easier for me, the Ref, to prepare.

Into the Void takes place in the frontier area of known space, on the very outskirts of an Imperium vaguely similar that of the standard Classic Traveller universe. Space beyond the frontier border is known as “the Void.” I’m using the same organizations, but ignoring the history of and maps of that universe. Making my own alien races, etc.

Imperium Year 6025, Day 234. (6025.234)

Game one begins with the recently retired members of the Imperial Scout Service. They begin on planet Mylor, on the very edge of the Void, in an as-yet unnamed and incompletely explored subsector. Most of the subsector is in the Void.  A small world with standard atmosphere, Class B space port (no “high-port”), and one major city of about 12,000 sophonts. The ex-Scouts, Roger (the pilot), Fred (“Lucky” – due to his many missed survival rolls and maimings), and Barney (expert ship Engineer) are in the star port tavern, trying to decide what to do next. Roger had mustered out with a Scout ship, and the three have decided to seek their fortunes together.

While at the bar, a local Gluck tries to pick Roger’s pocket. Roger smacks the creature away, but doesn’t pay him much mind afterward. Glucks are a common species in this part of the Galaxy. Spheroid beings, with no obvious facial features, they have 6 arm/legs spaced evenly around their bodies. They move by kind of roll/walking. They can understand human speech, and communicate in Galactic Common by vibrating organs in their breathing orifices. While quite alien looking, they are psychologically and intellectually very much like humans, and thus integrate well into human culture. Anyway, the pickpocket Gluck backs up. The slight altercation gets the attention of table of young marines, on their way back to the inner-Imperium after long duty on the frontier. The Marines taunt the Scouts, who react by buying a round of drinks for them, avoiding trouble.

After the Scouts have been at their table for a bit, a tall, thin old human approaches their table and asks if he might join them. He introduces himself as Zall Twist, an exo-archaeologist from the university on planet Zapata, one sector rimward – the subsector capital of the Zapata subsector. He’s been in the frontier for several weeks, researching rumors of the Precursor civilization, the theorized interstellar society predating the Imperium by several million years. This is his area of specialization and main research interest. He’s met a group of merchants (he points them out in the tavern) who mentioned to him an interesting ruin they happened upon 2 parsecs into the Void, when their ship misjumped. They landed on the moon of a gas giant for repairs and refueling, and while in the air they spotted what looked like a tremendous ziggurat in the middle of the heavily forested equatorial region. Zall thinks this may indeed by related to the Precursor culture, and wishes to travel to that world in the Void to investigate. He asks if the PCs have a ship, and upon finding that they do, offers them 50K up front, and 50K upon completion and return to Mylor, if they will take him to that gas giant’s moon and mount an expedition with him. He says he can think of no better companions on such a voyage than three very able former Scouts.

The PCs agree to Zall’s terms, and agree to leave the next day. They spend the rest of the day buying gear and supplies for this, and future, missions.

The next morning they meet Zall at the Scout base, where their ship is landed. It’s been refueled and maintenance is done. Zall has some scientific gear to load. As they load the ship, Roger feels a gut on his pants leg. It’s the gluck from the Tavern, who introduces himself as “Fardt” — with a “D”. He thanks Roger for not beating him up in the tavern — that it was nothing personal, and asks if the crew needs a cook. Feeling sorry for Fardt, the crew hires him on for 100cr a week, and finds space in the cargo bay to make him a comfortable quarters.

The ship lifts off, travels several hours to 100 planetary diameters distance, and engages the jump drive. Roger rolls and the ship avoids mis-jump. They enter jump space uneventfully.

During the week in jump space they have a chance to get to know Zall and Fardt. They get a few more details about Zall’s mission plan (not much of a plan, as they are going into the unknown), and learn that Fardt is a good guy — a reasonable and generally good natured rogue.

The ship exits jump space on target, 100 pds from the gas giant. They immediately spend the first day in-system skimming the gas giant for fuel, in case a fast getaway is needed later. They then begin scanning the surface of the moon for the ziggurat. They quickly find that the gas giant is emitting random bursts of radiation into space. Remaining in orbit for an extended period is a bad idea. For each hour spend looking for the ziggurat in orbit they have a 2/6 chance of finding it, but a 1/6 chance of being affected by a radiation burst. In the first hour they do not find it AND they get hit by a minor burst. No structural damage to the ship, but some scalding of hull plating that will need to be replaced. In the second hour they locate the ziggurat and avoid further radiation bursts. They land in a clearing of the dense forest, 1/4 kilometer from the ziggurat.

Upon landing, they spend the first day doing ship maintenance, again preparing for fast exits if needed — a lesson learned during their 16 years as Scouts. Barney, the engineer, successfully maintains the J and M drives, finding no damage from the radiation burst.

The night sky of this moon is dominated the gas giant and the spectacle of occasional radiation bursts harmlessly lighting up the night sky and the distant Great Nebula of the Void, visible as a red haze in the sky, even from several parsecs away.

Day two they decide to take the air raft to the ziggurat. The entire group goes, including Fardt. They take the air raft high above the trees, surveying the area around the ziggurat from the air. This close, they see what appear to be old landing pads to one side of the structure, overgrown now with vegetation. On the other side, the ruined walls of smaller structures.

They land near what appears to be a big stone door on the base of the structure. Looking at the ruined building around them, they use their IR googles to scan the surrounding forest. They can see the heat signatures of small humanoid shapes out in the relative darkness of the woods. The shapes are not closing in. Just watching.

Clearing the heavy vine growth from the wall around the massive stone door, they discover a still-active electronic pad with a couple of blinking lights. They assume this is the doorbell or door actuator.  Lucky used his Electronics-2 skill and manages to hotwire the system.

The huge door slowly rises as the party stands at the entrance, the woods full of humanoids of undetermined friendliness, and the ziggurat itself inviting them inside to discover who-knows-what.

End of session 1. Game time elapsed 11 days.
End date: IY6025.245

I may have gotten a few details about time required for gas giant skimming and stuff like that wrong. I’ll look that stuff up before the next session. Since it was not critical to the game today I just assumed a day for stuff like that. I have a better idea how my group will play Traveller now, so I can tweek the upcoming stuff in this particular adventure, and make sure everyone has a chance to shine, and make sure there’s some exciting stuff in game 2. I could have really played up the radiation burst a lot more — the effects on the ship, a chance for the engineer to do this thing, etc. Live and learn. That would have been exciting though. Lesson learned.