Into the Void Ref’s Notes Session 29

A few notes about session 29. Not going into too much detail about specifics from the Referee’s point of view as we just started this adventure.

For the first time ever I am using a classic published adventure from the old Traveller books. Two reasons. First, I was having trouble coming up with a good way to take the game at this point. I’ve been collecting the old books, and decided what the heck, let’s do it. Second, after watching some of Seth Skorkowski’s YouTube Videos I feel like I have a new appreciation of both how good many of those published classics are and how to run them.

So if you are in my group, don’t watch Seth’s videos! I might use some of the old scenarios he talks about!

This was one of those session where we had just finished a multi-session adventure. Sometimes deciding which way to take a game is not easy. In order to make this work I needed to get the guys back into space. They had a good reason to do exactly that, but could have decided to do some other stuff first. I might have needed to improvise a better reason. But rather and try to guide them I just sat on my hands. I let them hash it out. No forcing things. If they decided to do something else I would have made a game happen by responding to them. Turns out they did exactly what the scenario needed them to do anyway, so that was cool. We got underway. Sometimes as a gamemaster you have to just let things happen. It’s always better when the PCs aren’t railroaded. I’ve got a folder full of good NPCs and ideas for encounters. I can pretty much always make fun happen with the players’ help.

But I have to admit, it is nice to have DOZENS of concise 1-page adventures from Michael Brown and almost all the classic Traveller adventures and double adventures waiting to be to used.

I had to do a little massaging of the published scenario to fit it into the game, but nothing that major. This is almost always the case. I’m not running the published Third Imperium setting. So a few minor details had to be changed. I ran into this when running the last set of sessions using Michael Brown’s Energy Transfer adventure.

Something I’ve learned from reading Michael’s adventures, and that I’ve become very comfortable with, is finding new ways for PCs to use skills, and coming up with quick rules to determine their effects. For example, allowing the navigator to use his Nav skill to accomplish more efficient travel, save time, and in this case double the amount of time they’d have to accomplish their task upon arrival. They started with 1 hour under normal navigation, but for every 1 he could make his Nav roll by, I gave them an additional hour of time to work before falling into the sun. He made it by 1, so they had 2 hours rather than 1, which helped. I let the Engineer use his skill to gain information about the status of the clearly damaged maneuver drive. This kind of skill use, I think, lets players feel like they are valuable skills. It makes the characters a lot cooler. I had the pilot make a Pilot skill roll to match the speed and attitude of the target vessel. Without that, things would have been more difficult. He has Pilot-4, but he could have failed. Spacewalks and all the rest would have been a lot harder if he’d had to constantly be making adjustments, and using the docking clamp would have been next to impossible.

Once they were inside the ship, I again had to sit on my hands and just answer questions and let them explore. So many of us have been programmed to think that constant action is what makes RPGs fun, but it’s not. Exploration, suspense, information gather, time stress. These all made the game fun.

I can’t wait to continue.


ITV Session 29: Into the Sun


SAFCO starts from exactly where the last session left off, at the secret landing pad/hideout of the now-dead Lomax Jr.

After discussing what to do with  the transport coffins full of radioactive ore, they decide to dump the coffins into the local gas giant as they are about to go refuel.  The group takes off directly from the hideout, not wishing for anyone to learn they have illegal radioactives onboard the ship. Sally Rasputin remains with the crooks – looks like she has a new employer.

They reach one of the two gas giants in the system, skim some new fuel, and dump the coffins. Lucky uses his Nav-1 skill to plot an efficient course back to Mylor that will cut some time off the journey. As they slingshot around the sun on this trajectory, they receive a broad-beam message. A ship has entered the system and is hurtling toward the sun at high speed. It does not appear to be under power, but it will enter the sun on its current path. Any ships available are instructed to investigate and render aid if possible.  The team decides to intercept and help. It will be close. A typical intercept course will only give them about an hour to help once they meet the ship.  Lucky again uses his Nav-1 skill. The ref rules that if he can make his roll, for every 1 he surpasses his required roll by they get an extra hour to work. Lucky rolls an 8, beating his required 7 by one. They’ll have 2 hours to work. Not much time, but better than just an hour.

sunThe Rambler II alters course. Using Lucky’s navigation, they are able to slingshot around one of the outer planets, picking up speed, and intercepting the incoming ship. They see that the other ship is a Type-A Freetrader, almost identical from the outside to the Rambler II.  The company name “InterStarSpec” is painted on the hull. At this point the clock is ticking. Roger uses his pilot skill to match the speed of the other ship. Barney find InterStarSpec in the computer’s Library program, identifying it as a company with offices and facilities on Mylor. They are apparently involved in identifying natural resources on new worlds, obtaining rights, and selling those rights to other organizations.

They take the Rambler around the other ship for a visual examination. They see lots of burn marks on the hull. Roger flips the Rambler length-wise and flips it upside down to better establish a lock with the docking clamp on the other ship. They have no airtight tunnel, so Flint, Barney, and Lucky put on vacc suits, use the airlock, and spacewalk over to the other ships front airlock. Lucky is unable to hotwire the panel so the hatch remains shut. He says it looks like the panel has been deliberately shorted out!

The away team carefully spacewalks to the rear of the ship, hoping to access the rear airlock, between the two maneuver drive nozzles. They see the same burn marks on the rear of the ship. Barney notes (using Enginerring-3 skill) that the nozzles appear to be ruined, with melted/slagged parts. Lucky succeeds in hotwiring the door. Flint enters the ship through Engineering, followed by Flint and Barney. Roger and Fardt remain aboard ship. Power is on, artificial gravity is working, and life support is functioning.

They do a thorough search of the ship. Looks like there has been a fight all over the vessel. Burn marks similar to those on the hull appear on interior bulkheads, and things are a mess in general. The Jump drive appears to be undamaged, but Barney quickly assesses the situation in Engineering. The M drive will not be repaired without new parts. Not only are the thruster nozzles in horrible shape, but there is damage to the interior mechanisms.  The ship’s powerplant is functioning.

The away team gets to the bridge. Barney notices a big wrench on the floor, and four bolts scattered around.  He knows from the Rambler that these are bolts used to hold a wall panel on in the communications area. Looking at that panel, Flint sees that indeed the bolts are removed. He tips the panel forward to see a skinny, dirty, scraggly-bearded man hiding in the interior. The man looks crazed. Flint removes the panel. The man is shaking, sweating and gibbering nonsense. Barney removes the data storage module containing the ships log. The survivor continue to freak out, muttering “Chamax…Chamax!!!”.  He lunges at Flint, who easily avoids the attack and swats the man down, unconscious. They find a sedative in the medical bay and administer it to him.

Deciding they have gathered all the information they can and having found the one surviving crew member to whatever befell this ship, the away team  puts the man in a vacc suit they find in the ship’s locker, and take a couple of body pistols and shotguns along with ammo (they can’t help but do a little looting). They carefully spacewalk, carrying the man back to the Rambler II.

We end the session with the team and the survivor aboard the Rambler II, the two ships still connected by the docking clamp, both ships still hurtling toward the sun, with 45 minutes before it is too late to escape the star’s gravity well.

Elapsed time: 396 game days

Loose ends:

  • Ship needs to move to safety
  • The survivor – who is he, is he now just insane
  • What happened to this ship?
  • Still haven’t dealt with Dr. Fawke back on Desolis

Some good Youtube channels

I have spent some time over the last few days watching gaming videos on Youtube on the 65″ HD TV.  I rarely even watch anything but movies on it, and I was amazed at the quality of a couple of Traveller-related channels.

First, CyborgPrime‘s channel is really well done.

Next, Seth Skorkoski‘s channels is excellent and entertaining. Seth inserts just enough humor into his videos. It works without being annoying.

Both have great information.

New Player Characters

We had a great time playing 5th Edition D&D yesterday.

For all the old people complaining about how it is too easy or whatever, it is a lot of fun, in the right hands. Our DM, William, knows how to use the system. We have a great campaign.

I think it’s good that 1st level characters are more capable than 1st Edition AD&D 1st level characters were. It’s still pretty easy to die, but your 1st level magic user isn’t uselessly throwing vials of flaming oil at monsters after casting that ONE spell.

I think one reason Dungeon Masters have perhaps been historically hesitant to kill off PCs is that man, you work a long time to level-up your character so it doesn’t die from a bee sting. If your group are all around 7th or 8th level, for example, and your character dies, it kinda sucks to have to start again at 1st level, and to me it always felt like cheating to just roll up a 5th or 6th level character. Well, maybe not cheating, but not satisfying. There’s a satisfaction in gaining those hard-fought-for levels. It feels legit.  The you’re supposed to just roll up a new PC at high level?  Hey – I don’t even know this person! I’d actually rather roll up a new 1st level character and have them tag along with the old group. It feels more right to me. And other than hit points, I think the 5th edition new characters are better able to hang.

As a GM, I worry a lot less about killing off GURPS or Traveller PCs. When you roll up a new Traveller character there isn’t such a dramatic power differential to deal with. Sure, the new PC may not have much money, powered armor, alien tech, or whatever, but the character is fairly well-formed other than that.  I think that’s liberating for both GM and player.

Into the Void Ref’s Notes Session 28

We were one player down this session, but ran his character carefully and safely.

This was the end of a 4-session adventure. Really, it could have been added into the previous session, but I really didn’t have anything ready at the time. One good thing about running short sessions is that it allows you to react to the character’s actions well. It also draws things out a lot.

So here’s something I noticed during this session. At one point a couple of the PCs split off in the air raft, the idea being they could cover the rest of the team from a high vantage point. One of the PCs has good Rifle skill, so he was great as a sniper. The other, Barney, the engineer, was more of a lookout. Barney’s player, William, often puts his character in a lookout position. He seeks a good vantage point, and this has paid off many times for the group, whether playing Traveller or GURPS.  In this particular case it didn’t hurt anything, but it didn’t help either. I could have helped, but it didn’t. As the Referee, I didn’t suddenly invent some threat for him to deal with. Things were as they were. The team had created a good plan. They’d acted rationally. There was no reason some threat would instantly materialize just to keep William entertained.

And the great thing is this: William didn’t need to be entertained. He is a long-time RPGer, and an engaged player. Like the rest of this group, he thinks of the team’s success and how he might contribute to it, rather an worrying about being the constant superstar. So as an adult RPGer, he is able to accept that the actions of his PC did not put him in the spotlight but remain engaged with the game.

I appreciate that. I am a very lucky GM to have a group like this.

ITV Session 28: Goodbye, Old Frenemy


SAFCO, Sally Rasputin, and Reesus Peesus have boarded the Rambler-II and are in space, heading for the first of two jumps needed to return to Mylor. The cargo hold contains 6 transport coffins full of radioactive ore intended for delivery to crime boss Lynn Lomax Jr. The micro-bomb Lomax has implanted into the neck of Reesus has been removed while on the moon Desolis, using a microscopic amount of the energy-leeching crystalline organism discovered on that moon of Trask-6. Reesus need not fear Lomax anymore.

The crew spends two weeks in transit back to Mylor. During the trip Reesus teaches the crew a few gambling tricks for card games, and they learn that he wants to kill Lomax, which is fine with the crew, but it would leave a power vacuum. Reesus tells them that Lomax’s 2nd in command, Alro Rupalian, has expressed his concerns over the move into the spaceport, and might be a good person to assume control of the Lomax interests.

As the team approaches Mylor Reesus reveals the coordinates of a private landing site/hideout used by Lomax to receive contraband materials. He is able to give them a general idea of the layout. The landing site is in an inlet in the canyon walls, on a river about 100 km east of Mylor city. They ask him if Lomax will be there and he says yes, Lomax doesn’t trust anyone, so he’ll be there to receive the goods.

To avoid being stopped by authorities SAFCO enters the atmosphere well away from the city. They have devised a plan, as they have no intention of handing radioactives over to a criminal.

Reesus uses a private radio channel to contact Mergatroyd, my Mylor City, to request assistance.

Barney and Flint take the air raft out, far from the landing site, and quietly take up a position on the other side of the river, on the edge of the canyon, across from the landing site, reporting in to those remaining on the ship.

Roger lands the Rambler-II after notifying Lomax via radio that they’ll be there.  As they land, on either side of the landing pad, they see a tower (camouflaged from the air) in which a guard stands watch with a laser rifle. There are several entrances to what must be a base in the face of the canyon walls.

Roger and Reesus descend the loading ramp to great Lomax and his entourage. Both are armed. Lomax comes out smiling, “Welcome SAFCO. I trust you have the shipment? It’s going to make us a lot of money!”. “Yes,” replies Roger, “we’ve got it.”

“I see you’ve brought my favorite lap dog back as well – hello Reesus!”

Reesus seethes. Memory of the weeks and weeks of servitude and fear overwhelm him. He draws his autopistol and points it at Lomax.

“Reesus! What’s wrong with you? Don’t you remember this?” Lomax shows him the detonator he carries with him, which weeks ago would have triggered the micro-explosive Lomax had implanted next to his carotid artery. Reesus is swearing profusely and shaking slightly. Reesus keeps the gun pointed at him. Lomax grows visibly concerned. Reesus smiles slightly. Lomax uses the trigger. Nothing happens. His eyes go wide in disbelief. He triggers it again and again to no effect. Reesus smiles and pulls the trigger – MISSING Lomax completely!

The shit hits the fan as the shot is fired.

From across the river Flint fires his rifle, hitting the closest laser wielding guard in the head, killing him. The guard goes tumbling from his deer stand style post, falling 30 feet to the floor of the landing site.


Roger tosses a hand grenade next to Lomax, who fails to dive for cover. He’s blown to bits and two of his henchmen are knocked out.


The other laser guard, having seen Reesus fire at Lomax, fires at Reesus, the bright red laser beam burning a hole through his skull, killing him instantly.


Aboard the Rambler, Fardt directs the automated pulse laser turret to fire on the surviving laser guard. The ships laser hits, vaporizing the goon and burning a hole in the canyon wall.


Lucky points the bottom pulse laser turret at the remaining goons. The GM rolls a morale check, and they fail, dropping their weapons and surrendering.

Roger directs the SAFCO robot to take Reesus to the autodoc, but it is hopeless. A large tunnel has been burned through his brain.

A white flag comes out the door, followed by a tall androgynous man and a few more thugs, all with their hands up. The tall man introduces himself as Alro Rupalian, and asks where Reesus is? SAFCO explains the situation. With regard to Lomax, Rupalian states “Lomax as a fool. Moving into the spaceport and bring the attention of imperial authorities was a dumb risk.”  He goes on the say “We won’t be taking those radioactives. It’s one thing running guns and contrand, but I don’t want to start selling WMD components. That’s bad business.”

Finally Mergatroyd and some associates arrive via air raft and take Reesus’s body. He and Rupalian disappear into the hideout to talk business.

SAFCO, having regrouped, with Sally, board the ship to discuss their next moves…

Loose ends: They still have the radioactives. What to do about Falke, back on Desolis, who has the energy leeching organism and wishes to profit from it. They have not left the hideout yet.

End of session.

Elapsed time: 393 game days



CCC 11: Marquis Leonard Lenaris

System: Classic Traveller
Setting: Homebrew — Into the Void
3 terms Noble,  age 30
Air Raft-1, Bribery-1, Dagger-2, Carousing-1

Gear: 70,000 cr,  dagger, fancy clothes, Bolt-3000 racing Air Raft (very fast)

Marquis Leonard Lenaris of planet Titania should have been born a few hundred years earlier, when his family’s influence and wealth were at their height. Back then, being the Marquis really meant something. Sadly his grandfather ruined their finances.  Leonard eventually found himself with an expensive estate, not enough money coming in, and no prospects of turning things around. Only his longstanding connections have allowed him to retain his estate, which is slowing falling into ruin around him, as he concentrates on going to parties and racing his Bolt-3000 air raft in the Noble’s Circuit.

Leonard is 6’1″ tall, weighs in at a lean 185 lbs, looks good in his fancy clothing, and has long curly black hair. He has not mustered out, still being active in his chosen profession of noble hedonism.


CCC 10: Boris Levensky

System: Classic Traveller
Setting: Homebrew — Into the Void
4 terms Other,  age 34

Gear: shotgun, dagger, electronics tool kit. 115,000 cr.

Boris is a private person. He doesn’t say much. Boris is a skinny little red-headed bastard, and tough. He’s from somewhere, but you’ll never hear where that is.  He’s had a rough life and has bounced from one dead-end job and backwater planet to the next. Once someone told he he had some sort of mental disorder. Boris doesn’t really know. He tried working in an asteroid mine once but just didn’t have the skills, and frankly he found it a bit unpleasant. He’s picked up one useful skill over his 34 years — he’s not bad at fixing electronic devices. Seems to have a knack for it. He’s good with a shotgun, and loves to fight. A fair fight, to Boris, is one that he wins.  Boris doesn’t think much past the present. He’s a survivor but not really a thriver.  One thing he’s learned in his travels — trust only his shotgun and dagger.

CCC 9: Andrea LeAndros

System: Classic Traveller
Setting: Homebrew — Into the Void
1 term Merchants,  rank 1, age 22
Auto Pistol-1

Gear: auto pistol with 1 spare clip, medical kit, 6000cr, carved wooden figurine of alien bird worn on a line around her neck (a good luck charm from one of many ports).

Andrea LeAndros comes from the planet Sylix, the second habitable planet in the Zapata system. Habitable but not exciting. Like so many talented young people born on minor planets into modest circumstances, Andrea found her escape into the greater galaxy by signing on to the Merchant services after visiting the Spacers Union Hall. Well-educated, she passed found a berth and job aboard a 500-ton freighter as an apprentice crew member. In her first term she learned basic medic skills, how to shoot an auto-pistol (gotta be able to defend against piracy), and skillful use of a vacc suit. Before she could begin her 2nd term the company owning that freighter went bankrupt, which resulted in at least temporary unemployment for the captain and crew.  She is now waiting for a position on a new ship, but will entertain other employment offers to get by.

Andrea is 5’5″ tall, has short-cropped spacer hair (dark), and typically wears a jacket procured on one of their stops, a dark leather spacer’s jacket with hidden interior pocket that can mask its content from electronic detection. She’s a solid crew member, has a natural gift as a medic, and loyal to friends. A young person in search of opportunity.


CCC 8: Rooth Adamson

System: Classic Traveller
Setting: Homebrew — Into the Void
3 terms Barbarian,  rank 4, age 30
Blade-2, Repeating Crossbow-1, Streetwise-1, Recon-2, Survival-1,

Gear: 2000 cr, blade, sword, repeating crossbow, IR goggles, advanced TL-12 armor (see below)

Rooth grew up in the bombed-out slums of the savage criminal haven planet of Pelucidar, on the fringe of known space. Natives there are thought of as barbarians by most civilized planets, and the criminal elements that use the planet as a base of operations and recruitment center like it that way. In her youth Rooth served as a recon scout for her “tribe”, eventually becoming one of the most effective hand-to-hand fighters in her region, raiding both enemy clans and criminal outposts for supplies. Eventually she was captured by weapons smugglers. During the capture she killed 5 men in close quarters combat before being brought down by a gas grenade. Rather than execute her, the smugglers gave her a chance to work for them as muscle, which she did until killing her bosses and making her escape into the underworld of planet Zapata. While still uneducated, her remarkable intelligence has allowed her to prosper.

Rooth is 5’11” tall, with a heavily muscular frame and shoulder length blond hair. Her face sports a scar across her right cheek. She normally wears a TL-12 suit that incorporates an internal layer of heat dissipating mesh, giving her protection of mesh and reflec. The armor appears to be normal clothing made of a synthetic leather.

Rooth is good-natured, but by virtue of her upbringing is no-nonsense and has no problem resorting to violence when she deems it appropriate.