Interwebs Treasures #18

Working on a Traveller Game

Now that I have the three core books, a bunch of supplements (all from eBay), and a CD-ROM that contains everything they ever published for Classic Traveller, I thought I’d start working up some campaign materials. At this point, I’ve decided to use the Spinward Marches supplement at the overall setting for the game. I purchased some inexpensive Traveller game scenarios written by Michael Brown to give me some ideas, and decided to use one of them as the core of Game 1. I’m about 75% done with writing for this session.

I have no idea how this will go. There are a number of reasons. First, well, it’s a big galaxy. Not totally sure I am good enough at GMing to handle it. But we haven’t even rolled up the PCs yet, so once we do that and have some backstories for them I should be able to come up with some additional material for the game.

Also – how will my players react to the game? One of the things I like about CT is the very simple and efficient character stats. There’s not that much there to keep track of. A line of six numbers/letters describes the characteristics. A few very general skills with a number next to them describe that character’s professional skills. The game pays no attention to things like languages spoken, etc. There will no doubt be some areas where I have to use my Referee Power to just say “OK, you speak Aslan” or whatever. That’s fine, but let’s face it, GURPS details everything your character can do, so this is way different. And of course, there is pretty much no character progression system. PCs are generated as experienced characters.

The first time I tried to ref a Traveller game here’s how it went (I was in highschool). The PCs were hired by some colonists to come and kill a massive beast that was terrorizing them on a remote planet. The PCs rented a helicopter gunship, took it to the planet, and killed the monster from the air. Game over. Yeah – good thinking on their part, not so good on mine, and not all that much fun. Hopefully as a 52 year old man who thinks a bit more clearly about these things, I can make Game 1 of this new campaign will be more engaging.

There are some other issues to deal with as well. Classic Traveller was created in the late 1970s. There are lots of technological developments and ideas it simply doesn’t account for that well. Computers, for one. There’s just a lot of stuff that those little black books, despite their elegance, don’t really address. If I were a true “rules lite” kind of guy that wouldn’t bother me, but I’m not. I like a little more detail in the system, but there are lots of resources to use beyond the LBB, so I think it’s cool.

I’ve noticed this same kind of issue with my Cyberpunk campaign. Older science fiction – pretty much anything pre-internet – simply doesn’t account much for networked computing, mobile devices, the development of nanotechnology, etc. I am fine with simply saying that stuff doesn’t exist. We’re playing Traveller as if we were living in 1977, as if we were in the novels of that era.

The nice thing about this is that I can try my hand at a space campaign without spending lots of time creating detailed character sheets for NPCs. It’s great being able to pick up the Citizens of the Imperium supplement, saying ” I need a scientist”, and finding plenty of easy to use stats right there.

I have to admit though that if the players end up enjoying this I may convert to GURPS so their characters can progress a bit during the campaign.

Interwebs Treasures #17

Working more on Game 4

Today was my morning off. Got up early (6:30am), had coffee and breakfast, chilled, read, and then spent two hours working on Game 4 of CyberTex. I’m doing Scene 1 in 3 parts — 1a thru 1c. These will deal with separate, concurrent events for each of the PCs (two of them together), which all intertwine and bring them back together for another story arc. This was originally planned as a one-shot, but my players seem to be really into the game, so I think I’ll make it another three game arc. Anyway, I wrote up the plot of 1b this morning. I’m writing this game in a more narrative fashion, which I think is helping me immerse myself in the game world to really describe everything more richly — the NPCS, the environment, the potential dialog, etc. Kind of writing it as a “module” specifically for my own PCs.

I’m really happy that my players have taken so well to GURPS. I am certainly no ace with it. I really haven’t delved into the magic system (since this game has no magic), or even more advanced combat. But GURPS really offers the kind of customization that makes for interesting PCs, and a nice toolbox for the GM to pull from.

I’ve got two skateboard contests coming up this summer, which I’m really busy practicing for, but I think when they are done I will try to actually play more.

Interwebs Treasures #16

  • A video from the interwebs – Crit or Miss Special: The Problem with GURPS : not a criticism of GURPS, but a video by a huge fan of GURPS about why he often chooses not to use it. My commentary: I’ve purchased many RPGs over the years. Few have been played more than a few times. D&D. Traveller. Champions (HERO system). GURPS. Those are the systems I’ve used a lot. When I’ve purchased other games that create their own systems for a particular campaign setting, I’ve usually thought the systems sucked, even if the background material was really good. A few exceptions. My friend Bob had this game called Demon: the Fallen, which I looked through and it looked awesome. Technically it was part of the World of Darkness thing, so whatever, maybe it wasn’t entirely it’s own thing. Still, if I see a game system for a cool setting, I think there’s an 80% chance I’d just GURPS it, or use the Hero system.
  • A cool interview with Marc Miller, designer of Traveller.
  • Travellermap.com – mind blown. Zoomable, printable map for Traveller’s Third Imperium setting.
  • Zhodani Base – incredible Traveller site.

Interwebs Treasures #15

As usual, a few cool things from the internet.

Working on a session

Finally getting serious about writing up CyberTex Episode 4. I’ve got this nice notebook and a nice pen, and I’ve spend a lot of time noting ideas for this game, so tonight I started typing it up. I’m doing it, once again, in scenes. This may be a much more free-ranging game. A lot less certainty about what actions the PCs will take, which is fine, it just means I’ll have to be thinking a bit faster. This is intended to be a one-session game. I have some encounter scenarios I can drop in when appropriate. They are flexible that way. I’m working on a contingency tree for the game as well — if they do this, then this, but if they do this, then this other thing, etc etc. I’ve used this before and it helps me guide the game a bit without railroading the players. And finally, I’m working on some interesting NPCs to encounter, as well as weaving the character backgrounds into the game. Will probably throw in a few hooks for future games as well. Fun!

Brainstorming New GURPS Campaigns

As I’ve written before, I think GURPS is best suited for somewhat oddball campaign settings. Honestly, I feel like if one want to run a pretty standard fantasy campaign, D&D is fine. If you want a standard supers game, Hero System/Champions is really good (You can do it with GURPS, but the game mechanic in the Hero System of Stun damage vs. Body damage, makes it uniquely suited to supers.) But if you to do something unique, GURPS is the way to go. I cite Victorian Apocalypse as a great example. This guy came up with a really fun and novel game world, and GURPS is very well-suited to realize it in the game.

I am kind of interested in doing an urban fantasy/magic style game. Not sure exactly where to go with it. I started reading the Dresden Files books this week. I’ll read a few of them. The first one was really quite enjoyable. Coming up with a setting like this, the would allow players to modify some of the classic fantasy archetypes into modern versions might be fun. It might also be easier than cyberpunk to give them a continuing motivation to band together.

Back in the 1990s I read George R.R. Martin’s Wildcards series. It’s kind of a “what if supers existed in the real world” kind of thing. Really fun books. There is a GURPS sourcebook that came out back then for this world. I think I’d be interested in running that kind of supers campaign as well. Honestly, I’m really good with the Hero system, and it would be a lot easier for me to use it, but I think the level of realism in the GURPS system lends itself to a better approximation of this kind of world.

I’m also interested in a science fiction/space campaign, but I’m not sure where to go with it. I could see using some of the old Traveller materials like “the Spinward Marches” as a campaign setting. I’m really not interested in the whole space ship building and combat thing. I think I’d rather have people get around via teleportation or some Doctor Who-ish way. I don’t know. Haven’t thought enough about it.

However, I think that CyberTex is going quite well, so I’ll continue developing that campaign as I experiment with ideas for other game worlds.

 

Homebrew Worlds

Reading the blog for the Victorian Apocalypse campaign has been fun. Honestly, I’ve never had any interest in Steampunk as a genre. It’s always seem like more of a fashion movement. I don’t know if I’d say Victorian Apocalypse is straight-up steampunk, but I do like it. The time line (that link) is really well done. I’m always amazed when people can come up with homebrew settings that seem to well-reasoned, creative, and engaging. My friend Bob does that with his Wuxia games. He’s become very knowledgeable about ancient China, and he’s able to weave that knowledge into his campaign. Being a massive Wuxia fan, familiar with all that genre’s characteristics doesn’t hurt either.

From the time I started gaming, it really never occurred to me to run anything but a homebrew world. We bought dungeon modules, but we always just dropped them into our own campaign worlds and modified them as we saw fit. But being  young kids at the time, we didn’t expend a lot of brain cells considering the histories of our worlds. We just tried to create fun dungeons to explore.

Anyway, back to steampunk and stuff like that. Reading that blog has gotten me thinking a lot about my own cyberpunk world, it’s timeline, etc. I’ve been working on a timeline, and damn, coming up with something that doesn’t seem stupid is not easy. There’s some retconning that needs to be done too. There are some technologies that the cyberpunk literature seems not to have fully anticipated. Wireless tech is one of them. The Sprawl Trilogy seems like it largely missed that.  Bladerunner did too. The real game changer is nanotechnology. How far should I let nano go? Because if it goes too far things start getting really weird. Or quantum computing. I may simply have to say that those technologies — nano and quantum – are simply so dangerous to work with that few people are willing to delve into them, and perhaps there’s some super-secret agency that goes around “handling” those problems.

Such are the problems of a person of limited intelligence trying to design a tight homebrew world.

Yesterday I found a copy of GURPS Deadlands: Weird West at a local gaming shop. It’s a very cool setting. I bought it, and read the introductory chapters at lunch. Very well done. I think these kinds of setting books are great. I love seeing how talented writers create a good setting, incorporating real history with all sorts of weirdness and fun. I’ve never wanted to run a full western game. But the notion of weirding it up is really appealing. How about the world of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (already super weird!) with magic and monsters? I like that.

I need another five hours in every day to pursue all this stuff.