Started painting one of the miniatures. Just one. I have a duplicate of this one, so if I mess this up it’s no big deal. Been a looooong time since I’ve painted one of these and I need to develop some skills and strategy.
This looks like crap right now, but they always do at this point. You have to be patient and just keep working on it.
These will be the first miniatures I’ve painted in years that aren’t space ships. I’ve got the nice Army Painter set of many many paints.
Primed the minis tonight. I’ve got one that’s a duplicate to start on, and hopefully make the biggest mistakes there. I need a plan, because I want to also do something cool with the bases – like they are standing on terrain.
These are pewter miniatures (not lead like the old days of brain damage) so they’re a bit heavier than the typical plastic miniature you see these days, but the bases are plastic. So I’ll need to add some weight to them without making them too huge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dicehaven – another blog. They just started a podcast. As of this day, the link unfortunately just takes you to their RSS feed, but you can find the podcast on iTunes. One actual play episode thus far, but it’s actually listenable. I generally find actual play podcasts excruciating, even if the game is good. Not so in this case. The podcast is good.
Tenkar’s Tavern – a blog with an almost-daily podcast. The podcast is short, which is actually pretty nice. The site and podcast tend to focus on the OSR stuff (Old School Revival, or whatever). I’m never blown away by the podcast, but I do enjoy it. Kind of a nice little daily gaming injection. Short enough to listen to on my way to work!
Traveller Roleplaying Game Community on G+: I’ve become a big fan of Google Plus. It seems like it is better-focussed and less prone to bullshit than Facebook. Sure, a shitstorm can erupt, but it seems less common. The Traveller players in the group are great to interact with. Some talented GMs and content creators there.
We’re now four games into the campaign, which seems to have acquired some momentum. My players keep coming back, at least. I’ve found an alternate system of character improvement in Classic Traveller on one of the Traveller portal websites, and I may start using it. It’s not that much more generous than the very stingy one in the books, but any improvement would be welcome. Personally, I like that the players in this game aren’t always fretting about experience points and advancement, but still I think it would be nice to give ’em a little something.
This last game the PCs did a lot of “housekeeping” work from the previous session. Stuff they needed to deal with. Ship repairs, turning in scumbags for bounties, etc. Then they set right back out to the same system they’d just left. I’d designed a pretty good encounter for them, and as usual my players used their equipment to great advantage. They understand that combat in this system is deadly. This ain’t D&D 5e. They really use their heads, which I appreciate because I try to give them plenty of opportunity to do so. In the upcoming games I want to put them in situation in which they can use from of their lesser-used skills. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a space ship. Or a planet with a thin, toxic atmosphere.
I’m finding this game a lot easier to write for than my cyberpunk campaign. The PCs in this game have at least got some logical rationale for working together. Still, when our forth player can get back to the table, I need to be ready to get our cyberpunk on again. But for now, I’m loving the oldschool Traveller.
I follow several Traveller groups on Google+ and Facebook. There are some fantastic Refs and writers out there. I read some of their material, and it’s just mind blowing. So, so good. And yet, as good as their background material and ships plans and whatnot are, I’m honestly not sure I could use their settings. I’ve started our campaign on the frontier, near the true unknown of the Deep Dark, specifically so I’d not have to worry about Traveller cannon. It’s very freeing to be able to just make shit up. It’s fun. I need to make some notes from the SF short story anthology I’ve been reading too. It’s full of great ideas I may be able to adapt to our game.
Into the Void is at a very fun point right now. The last cliffhanger, I’ll admit, I’m kind of proud of. I can’t wait to continue the story and see what the players do. So much fun. Wish a couple of other old friends were here to play in it — maybe some day.