Miniatures

My friend Jeff and I made a trip to Reaper Miniatures Store, in Denton, Texas this morning. We’re lucky to have it so close – only about a 30 minute drive. They make over 4000 miniatures. We were looking for science fiction minis, suitable for our Traveller game.

There’s an awesome display room with hundreds of expertly painted miniatures in the store. Like many modern stores, they have their own gaming space and host events all the time.  The shop is attached to their factory. So cool.

Anyway, here’s some of the miniatures I bought today. I’ll be taking my time and trying to do a nice job on all of them. Then I’ll buy more. I’ll post picks of them at various stages of completion.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 5

Well, Game 5 is over. We’ve done a pretty good job the last few months of playing once a month. This last game got delayed due to a death in the family and then again by my mom breaking her hip, but we got back on track.

I’m real happy with the way this campaign has turned out. My players seem to enjoy not being shot at. They are into the characters and the exploratory adventure theme of the setting. Sure, we’ll do more shooting soon, and some ship combat. After all, we have miniatures now!

Doing the 3 hour play sessions has been really good. I don’t know why that seems short. I guess because our GURPS sessions started out at 5 or 6 hours. I felt a lot of pressure to have a lot of stuff ready, and to really be able to think on my feet as ref. As I’ve said before, it’s easier to prepare for 3 hour session. Another benefit is that it allows me to have these nice breaks in which to really think about where the campaign should go. What could happen. What would be cool. You never really know what players will do. Usually they do the unexpected, which opens up even more possibilities.

The “Into the Void” Classic Traveller gaming group, last weekend at Madness Games & Comics, in Plano, Texas. The best store in the world.

So far in this game the players have only been on two worlds. Mylor, the planet they started on after mustering out of the Scout service, and two worlds in the Precursor system, the moon known as Zal’s World and the now destroyed-by-singularity Precursor Prison Planet. Five games. Three worlds. When you start with Traveller there’s this urge to map out several subsectors very completely. I find that overwhelming. I did map out a few in a very minimal way, but really haven’t fleshed out that much at all.  I know a lot of refs enjoy the whole universe building aspect of Traveller, and dig coming up with all this background and details for all the systems. I don’t have that much time. I’d rather make things a bit looser, fill in details as I go, and go into great detail as the players actually encounter things. It’s just more efficient for me. Yes, this means my campaign isn’t as sandbox-style as some people like, but we seem to be doing alright.

The campaign is decidedly space opera-esque. I don’t think my players are very interested in trying to make money hauling cargo from one system to the other and speculating things. I don’t worry about doing hard science fiction. I’ve decided to make up crazy shit (the confined singularity power generator of the Precursor Prison Planet, with a mind embedded in the gravitational structure of the singularity – yes – this is gibberish – and we don’t care). We’re doing cool stuff and heroics and space epic kind of stuff. Adventure. It’s fun.

Our ships, thus far. More on the way. Learning to paint all over again.

I love point-buy systems. I really do. But damn, it sure is easy to prepare for a Traveller game. In the time it takes me to create a really good NPC in a point-buy system I can pretty much create an entire 3 hour game in Classic Traveller. It would be easy to switch to GURPS Traveller, but I feel like it wouldn’t really be Traveller. It would just GURPS Space, since I don’t even use the standard Traveller universe of the 3rd Imperium. Nothing wrong with the GURPS Space. I just don’t think it would have the same flavor. I feel like Classic Traveller has just enough game mechanics to get by without just being people sitting around a table talking (which of course all these games are, but they need some structure).

A few things I want to do in upcoming games.

  • Make sure that in working up every session I give each PC a chance to use their skills – to shine. I think that in the last game I fell short in that area.  Each character has stuff he is good at – better than everyone else. I need to make sure they always get a chance to be the hero.
  • Do some combat on a big ship. I mean — inside the ship. I want some adventure and danger in a great big starship.
  • Do some spaceship combat. It’s pretty deadly, but we can make it really fun. Each PC has skills that are critical to a good space battle — pilot, engineer, gunner.
  • Work in some of the PCs background elements. Family, enemies, etc. Give ’em something to worry about!
  • Better develop some of the alien cultures. The Glucks, Glee-Cheen, etc. Come up with some new ones.
  • Let the relationships with NPCs they’ve met have consequences. Ronda the Pilot, Zal Twist, Iron Balls McGinty, Rawlph the Gluck, etc, etc. Where the PCs have shown kindness, let it benefit them. Stuff like that. A good NPC from their past is always a good person to save their necks, or to get into trouble again and have the PCs save them! It’s a big universe, but hell, people run in similar circles out on the frontier.
  • I got a nice notebook to keep the campaign stuff in. Now I need to actually use it. Get organized.
  • Read more old science fiction, and new stuff, and steal lots of cool stuff.

 

 

 

ITV Session 5: To Kill a God

This image is the work of Charles Chi — great stuff. https://www.artstation.com/artwork/nB6qX

The players pick up exactly where they left off from session 4. They are standing before an animated 3-d construct of an insectoid alien’s head, who has said “I was one of the ancients, and I’ve brought you here…to kill me.”  The insect-like Protectors surround the players and the 3d-printing pedestal. The image communicates via the universal translator held by the Protector Chief.

The group questions the alien. It explains that this world is its prison. “Why do you want to be killed? Can we simply take you to another planet.” No, says the alien, who goes on to explain that thousands of years before he was a political dissident in the highly oppressive society of the Ancients, known to Zal as the Precursors. Their civilization had grown to a very high tech level, but had become controlled by a “death cult” at its upper echelons. They wished to destroy all intelligent life outside their own culture. This ancient, apparently a person of some influence, sought to change this as well as return a sense of positive purpose to the Precursor society. For this, his mind was stripped from his body, transferred to an artificial matrix, and he was imprisoned on this world on the outskirts of Precursor space, to exist in a state of limbo, alone and going mad, for eternity.

Now the alien wishes for the players to destroy his disembodied consciousness. He reveals that the “Heart of the Gods” worshipped by the Protectors, is in fact simply a minor broadcast power outlet of the true Heart of the Gods – a contained singularity power source, housed hundreds of feet below in a chamber in the bedrock of this planet. He reveals further that his mind is actually stored in the very structure of that singularity. He tells them that they must not allow that level of technology to infect their society, and that by helping him — by killing him – they’ll be serving their own civilization. When they revealed that they understood the true, disruptive potential of the Heart of the Gods (at the end of the last session), he knew he could reveal himself to them.

In talking to the alien, they discover that the weird “cells in space” they have seen on the Precursor star maps represent a planet-killing weapon apparently unleashed after this being’s imprisonment. Not good, as it is headed for Imperial space (at sublight it’s a long way away).

The players voice their concerns that destroying this device, containing a singularity, might destroy the planet and thus annihilate the Protectors.  The alien voices some disdain for the Protectors, but also admiration for the groups ethics. He suggests that they might first relocate the Protectors. They decide to move them to Zal’s World – the moon in this system which they first visited. The Protectors, it is determined, could survive there. The Precursor agrees to command the Protectors to cooperate. They believe him to be a god. He tells them that the PCs are the Messengers of the Gods.

The 3d printing pedestal slides sideways, revealing an elevator platform. The team takes it hundreds of feet down, and find themselves in a massive chamber. In the chamber is a circular 200 foot deep pit – smooth metal sides, 90 feet across. The chamber is bathed in shifting blue-green glowing light that shifts eerily on the walls.

Halfway down (100 feet) is a 15 glowing translucent globe suspended in the very middle of the pit, held in place by four 5′ wide metal spokes extending from the walls of the pit. The Heart of the Gods, and the container of the alien dissident’s consciousness. The walls of the chamber and the pit are featureless. Not visible controls or technology. Silent.

The team examines the room, and decides the best way to destroy the machine would be to put a high explosive charge against it.  Back up in the main chamber, the Alien agrees, stating the spinning singularity is held in place in the middle of the globe be a complex matrix of artificial gravity fields. Disrupting those fields violently, even for a moment, should destroy the system.

Now – logistics. They need to move the Protectors and they have no explosives. The team decides to return to Mylor and get the much larger Type-A Merchant ship. While there, the team acquires explosives from a mining supply company, a timer and detonator, and some rope to lower a team member down 100 feet to one of the beams holding up the Heart of the Gods.  A week there to maintain the ship, and another week in jump and they find themselves back on the Precursor system. They spend a couple of days moving the Protectors to Zal’s World. They then return to the Precursor “prison”. As a show of gratitude, the alien uses the 3d printer to create a data module for Zal, containing cultural info on the Precursor society. For the rest of the team, it creates a smooth black sphere the size of a softball — a universal translator.

The team descends down to the power source. Lucky repels down, with the rest of the team and the robot securing him. He plants the bomb next to the globe, sets the timer for 5 hours.

Then they get the hell off that planet.

From 200 planetary diameters they turn the ship, train the sensors on the rocky little world, and watch the planet disappear into the singularity, releasing a burst of radiation — the last trace of dead god.

Back on Zal’s World, the small red humanoid aliens meet their new Protectors.

 

Elapsed game time: 8.7 weeks.

Game postponed

I had to postpone last week’s installment of our Into the Void campaign. Had a family funeral to attend over in Louisiana.

I got some cool spaceship miniatures to paint a couple of weeks ago. Waiting on some good stands/bases for them before I paint. Need to be able to properly manipulate them. I haven’t painted a miniature since about 1993. Are my hands still steady enough? We – shall – see.

Anyway, I have a couple of weeks to prepare for the next Traveller session. Going to try to wrap up the current story arc. But no guarantees.

Traveller at NTRPG Con

This morning and early afternoon I played in Mike Kelly’s “Millennium Girl” game of classic Traveller. I won’t blow any surprises or details of this game, since I feel sure Mike will be running it again in the future. I’ll just say it was really fun. Mike’s obviously been running classic Traveller for a long time. It was a very unique adventure, at least in my experience.

Our group consisted of me, another guy my age (middle aged dude), an adult woman, a young woman just graduated from highschool, and a young woman I’d say about 14 years old, and a young man about 15 years old. By far the most diverse group I’ve ever gamed with. Really fun. A lot of fun to see how people outside my usual gaming group approach roleplaying.

Anyway, tons of fun. Play in one of Mike’s games if you get the chance.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 1

So we’ve had two play sessions of Classic Traveller in the Into the Void campaign. Both have gone well. I feel like the system is working as it should, even though I’ve had to guess on a few rules since I couldn’t find them on the fly. Honestly, the rule books are so short, and so simple, I need to sit down and really read every single word in them again. Today I answered one of my own questions simply by reading! Imagine that! Turns out all PCs have a skill level of 0 in every weapon. So yeah, your character with some other gun skill, like auto pistol-1, can pick up a shotgun and use it with no proficiency penalty. I’m sure there are a lot of other things I’m missing.

The campaign is starting to really take shape now. I have a few goals to accomplish before the next session. I need to spend a bit of time looking for good images of ships and common weapons to give the campaign more atmosphere and flavor. How is a tech level 13 auto pistol different from a modern day 9mm? I don’t know, because I’m not a gun guy, but I do know it should look really cool. Likewise, some nice images from the interwebs to illustrate the environments and places the PCs find themselves in would be good.

One issue with these kinds of games, at least for me, is that they are so open-ended that sometimes it seeks like the PCs don’t have clear goals or motivations. In a fantasy game, that never seems like an issue. Kill monsters, take their stuff. Right? In this campaign, as well as CyberTex, I want a more interesting story than that. Once I get my players to write up some brief character backgrounds I think we can make things a bit more personal. And then, of course, they can kill some monsters.

I also have some game mechanics topics I want to research in the old Journal of the Travellers Aid Society and other resources, like Freelance Traveller and the Zhodani Base. For example, I want to find some “minor” skills that are not included in the rulebooks, like language skills and a few other things. The trick will be adding things in that enhance the the game without blowing it up.

And of course I now need to do a better writeup of the Robot.

ITV Session 2: In the Temple

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.

 

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. 

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 6045, Day 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 1.5 weeks.

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.

New Traveller Campaign

Just set the date to start a Classic Traveller campaign. Kind of excited about this. Also, playing on weekend afternoons for just 2-3 hours will make it easier to prepare games, easier to get together, and allow weekend evenings for doing fun stuff with family and spouses. I think it’s a win for everyone. Amazingly, none of our group has any children, so Saturday afternoons are not full of soccer games, birthday parties, or other activities designed to oppress poor gamers.

Planning to use a homebrew setting/universe/subsector-or-two rather than the published Traveller setting. I love the published stuff, but I really enjoy creating my own stuff. That’s a lot of the fun of running a campaign for me.