Advise for new Traveller or Cepheus Engine Players

I try to stay away from “advise” posts on all my blogs. I don’t like to give the impression I am some sort of authority figure in hobbies and interests of mine.  Given that I have a podcast about Traveller that may seem like a crazy statement, but Jeff and I try to make the podcast about the game, and not about ourselves. The podcast, for us and hopefully our listeners, is an exploration of Traveller, not people pretending to be gurus.

That being said, here is some advise, but it is advise to listen to other people.

Traveller is a really different kind of RPG. It always has been. For that reason I think new players sometimes struggle to figure out how to run the game and to play it.

OK – here’s the advise. Do the following two things…

  • The Behind the Claw podcast, by Felbrigg Napoleon Harriot, is a must-listen. The episodes are relatively short. They explore Classic Traveller in a number of useful ways. From generation of planetary systems and explaining them, to creation of interesting NPCs, to discussions of the “bigness” of skills in Classic Traveller, each of the 33 episodes is worth listening to at least once a year. Yes, it is that good. Well produced, thought-provoking, and insightful. And fun listen to! And like all podcasts worth hearing, Felbrigg makes it about the GAME — not himself.When I began my Classic Traveller campaign,  Behind the Claw was very inspiring to me. It made a difference. Thank you for that, Felbrigg.
  • Read Agent of the Imperium, by Traveller creator Marc Miller. You can listen to it as well. I recommend reading it, then listening to it, then listen to it a few more times because there is a lot there! As you might expect, Marc immediately immerses you in the universe of Traveller and the Third Imperium. This is not a book about a band of adventurers, but rather about a high-level operative who is essentially an implantable personality. He operates in the Imperium over the course of many centuries, dealing with potentially disastrous situations. In the process of telling this tale, Marc takes you on a deep dive into Traveller. It all makes sense. It is fascinating.  I read a review of the audiobook saying the narrator sounds like a computer voice generator. Well — duh — he kind of does and it’s clearly intentional as the protagonist is essentially and AI. Don’t let that bother you when you listen. I assure you, the first “problem” the Agent has to deal with with blow you away.

 

Into the Void Ref’s Notes Session 23

After a few months of home remodeling and whatnot, we finally played today. We had planned an in-person meeting, but one of our players had a family member with Covid last week so we opted for online. That family member is fine. Thankfully they are testing negative and are well.

A few notes about this session. Not really any action. I had action planned, but as will happen in an RPG the players were very smart and took a lot of time carefully planning and roleplaying some non-action stuff. The result was great problem solving and skill use, and everyone was fully engaged.  There was just no shooting. Now, they were still dealing with the unknown, so the threat of danger is always there. That is fun. That is suspenseful.

This was session 23. The players started this expedition in Session 15. So that is 9 sessions. That is the longest sustained single “adventure” I’ve ever run. I’ve always found “quests” to be difficult to run. They always seem fun for the first few games, then the quest itself feels like a straight jacket for me as a ref. I feel like everyone is getting tired of it. I didn’t feel like that this time. I am glad the expedition is complete and they are back in charted space, but it was fun the whole time.

Likewise, this is the longest campaign I’ve ever run in real time or in game sessions. Granted, we haven’t played THAT many sessions, but we’ve been at it for several years. Adult life has gotten in the way a lot, but we’ve kept at it, and we’ve reached a point that the campaign has developed its own history, and with the discovery of a real threat to the Imperium during the expedition, the PCs have for the first time done something that could potentially affect the entire Imperium. That is very cool, and I really didn’t plan it. After the encounter in sessions 20 and 21 with the sentient planet-wide psionic fungal network, I listened to Marc Miller’s novel Agent of the Imperium, and realized they had discovered something that needs the attention of the highest-level decision makers.  That is very cool.

I’ve heard many podcasts speakers talk about story telling in their games. That is cool. But I don’t feel like a story teller. I think of my GMing as creating a game — creating situations and problems for my players to contend with and solve using their characters and resources. Clearly there is a story, but the story emerges from the play. Today I had no idea what they would do. I set the stage, the dice and rules and I are the world, and the players interact with it. It is nice if I come up with something brilliant and entertaining, but I’m not writing a story.

However, if you are, and your players dig it, that is great. I’ve just been reflected a bit on how I do things and the way I think about things. That’s all.

Anyway, the team got back to their base planet, took care of some stuff like getting paid, passing information on to the proper authorities, and are new all set up for the next game, which more than likely will involve some action and craziness.

After the session, I had all the players add the skills their characters have been studying for the last 4 years of real time permanently to their characters. Character improvements in Classic Traveller are hard to get, and it has just been a great campaign so far, so I just had them add the skills. No roll. Just some improvement. They can now decide what 2 skills they will study during the next 10 or 20 sessions.

ITV Session 23: The God Killers

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SAFCO begins where they left off, on the Precursor world in the Great Nebula of the Void. Having defeated the alien android possessed by the being inhabiting the Universal Translator, the team decides what to do.

Professor Zal Twist is stabilized in the ship’s autodoc. The Baroness insists that before leaving they attempt to at least take a sample of the withered Precursor bodies in the pods. Barney examines the alien technology, consults with Lucky, and makes a very difficult roll, successfully figuring out how to power-down a pod. He examines the power cable, and after very careful description of what he is doing, confirms there is no power in the cable. He cuts it.

Meanwhile, Flint has brought a lift from the cargo hold of the ship. They manage to lift one of the pods and take it to the ship. Flint brings the body of the alien android. Lucky discovers that while the brain and the Universal Translator are destroyed, the body does still have some charge left it its battery. They remove the destroyed UT and secure it.

Their business here complete, they take off. Once back in space they jump to one of the systems they had previously scanned containing a gas giant. In an effort to cut some time off their return trip to Mylor they do some additional scanning but discover no systems with refueling points. They proceed back to system 2, home of the planet-wide sentient psionic fungal network. They avoid the planet and refuel at a gas giant. They then jump back to Zal’s System, refuel, and return to Mylor. Five weeks travel time.

The Baroness talks to authorities once in orbit smoothing things over for SAFCO, who were wanted for her abduction in the subsector. She explains she stowed away.  All is well.

The team decides, after getting the fairly recovered Zal Twist to the hospital, to go inform the Scouts of the very serious threats to the Imperium lurking just a few parsecs away in the Void. In particular, the Fungal Network. Administrator Billy Zoom is glad to get the information. The Scouts have been preparing to survey that area, and this will keep them out of danger. The fungal planet will be interdicted immediately until the Imperial Quarantine Bureau decides how to handle that threat. Zoom tells that that a freighter full of religious cultist had recently left Mylor in the direction of the Nebula. Should they go to that world it would be an immediate danger, so their ship will be found and stopped. Or destroyed if necessary.

Zoom tells Roger that, sadly, the base recently lost a Scout crew and ship, so the ship that Roger mustered out with — the Rambler — has been pressed back into service. To compensate Roger, Zoom offers the team five IISS grav bikes that are about to be decommissioned as newer models have arrived. Rogers takes the deal.

Roger asks Zoom what else has happened during the months they’ve been gone. Zoom tells him that the local underworld on Zapata is rumored to be in somewhat a state of chaos. Turf wars are breaking out, confusion in leadership…

The team has earned the 100K credits from Zal and the University of Zapata for their help in the expedition. The Baroness arranges for the Precursor pod and the android body to be taken to the University of Zapata. One of the greatest archaeological finds in centuries — funded by her family. Her status should increase in the circles of nobility.  Zal will go down in history.

The team heads toward the Happy Gluck to relax and celebrate survival of yet another expedition into the unknown of the Void.

5e, and Traveller coming up

One of the guys in my Traveller group has been working to convert his old AD&D 1e/2e homebrew setting to 5e, and this past week we played our first game. I’m very happy that my wife is playing. I ran a 2e game for her and some friends in about 1993, so she has played before. The group is our Traveller groups plus my wife and the DM’s wife (who has played a lot, and is a good player).

I have to say there are some changes in 5e from the versions I’m familiar with that I really like. I would always be up for a 1e or 2e game, but honestly the first session was very fun and I’m looking forward to a long campaign. The books and materials are a lot slicker than the old versions. It is now a “media product” in many ways, but I think that like most RPGs the quality of play is dependent on the GM and players.

5e is a very combat-centered game, I think. And that’s fine. I’m playing a magic-user, and I’m trying to use trickery and whatnot to support the party more than throwing damage-causing spells. I’ll have to throw a few, because that’s just the nature of the game, but I think I can find a balance that I’ll enjoy.

After months of being busy and kind of preoccupied by home remodeling, I am finally running my Classic Traveller campaign again next month. Looking forward to that.

 

Non-Spoiler Review: Apotheosis, by Michael Brown

Over the last several years of running a Classic Traveller campaign I’ve purchased many of the one-page PDF adventures written “for 2D6 games such as Cepheus Engine and the Original Science Fiction Roleplaying Game” by Michael Brown. While I’ve not run any of them (I simply have not fit them into my game yet), I enjoy reading Michael’s creativity. Mr. Brown can get more adventure into one compact page than almost anyone, with creative scenarios and game hooks. He gives the GM all that’s needed to run a session or two without, as he has told me “stepping on the GM’s toes.”

Last week I decided to see what Michael could do in 16 pages. I ordered his adventure Apotheosis from Drive Thru RPG in both PDF and hard copy. The hard copy came in today, and I spent an hour reading it.

First a few comments about the book’s quality and layout. It is printed in what I’d call “zine size” 6″ x 9″. A little bigger than a folded in half letter size paper — not sure what this size is actually called. The cover is essentially a nice quality card stock with glossy exterior (again, I am not a publishing guy, so not sure what the exact terms are). Considering I paid on $6.49 for the hard copy/pdf set, I think the quality is really nice.

Apotheosis, by Michael Brown.

The actual adventure content is 16 pages, plus about 8 pages (front and back) of cover page, Open Gaming License, info, etc. The interior is printed on fairly nice paper, and the spine appears to be glued. I think the spine will actually last, as at about 24 total interior pages it isn’t heavy. One thing I like about this book is that it is small enough and light enough it was easy to handle, which not only makes it easier to read but probably easier to use during a gaming session.

The layout of this book is very nice. Simple black type on simple white pages, layed out simply. A font big enough for me to read without glasses.

The adventure is organized logically. It flows when you read it. Michael starts you with a plot overview, explains how to get your group into the adventure, gives you enough detail to run the adventure, lots of rumors the PCs might hear, motivations of the NPCs, etc. There is no art, but there is one map. I’ve found in some recent purchases that art is not always a bonus. Often it is poorly integrated into a rulebook or adventure, obscuring text and causing other problems. Not the case here. Again, Michael gives you what you need. Do you just have to have a map of a building or whatever? Just draw one. Or find a free one on the internet. You know your team’s going to probably destroy that building anyway, right?

Now, I said the adventure is layed out logically, but it is not designed to railroad your PCs through a linear path. This thing could go a lot of different ways, and Michael give you plenty of ideas as options.

Man, it is hard to do this without dropping spoilers. Ugh.

So, we have a nice little book, well organized content, a great mission on an interesting planet, and plenty of detail to allow you, the GM, to run a fun session or two. I think that it’s just the right length that I will not have any trouble finding things in it. Ever gotten an adventure that is so long, convoluted, and poorly organized that you can’t find some simple thing, like what kind of weapon an important NPC has, or something like that? I have. It sucks. Hell, you can spend five minutes looking for something, then just give up and make something up. That won’t happen with this adventure. It is all right there, easy to read, easy to use. Plenty to work with.

One last thing I wan to say. Michael Brown ALWAYS gives a reason for the PCs to be involved that makes sense when viewed in the light of the question “why wouldn’t the authorities be handling this?” That make a difference to me. I like things to make sense, so I appreciate this detail.

Even if you never play this adventure I would recommend it as an example of excellent adventure design.

That’s all. Now to play Traveller or Cepheus Engine!

 

Into the Void Ref’s Notes Session 22

Well, Session 22 was a lot of fun. I think my players had a good time.

As always, I feel like I could have been a bit more descriptive with the settings and all, but I’ll give myself a break. When you are GMing there’s a lot to keep track of.

So this game was intended to be the likely culmination of a story seed I planted in session 5, about 4 years ago. Yes, I sat on it that long. I say “intended” because while I had it set up, you can’t control what players do, and I was not going to force it. But it all worked out. The players of course didn’t do everything I expected, but I’ve come to expect that, so my expectations were met.

I go on and on about this, but my group is really good. They are great gamers. They are playing a system that punishes stupid actions. They are adventurous, but they use their head. Their characters use their tech to their advantage. They don’t walk into a situation unprepared, at least voluntarily. So while this session had many chance for grave bodily harm to be inflicted on the PCs, they managed to avoid it.

I knew this was going to be an important session in the campaign. I knew there was greater than normal chance a PC would die, so I wanted it to be very good. I struggled with the design of this session for a long time, writing stuff online, in notebooks, etc. I had a general idea of things, but just couldn’t really bring it together. So I tried something new.

I wrote a 7-page short story of the adventure. I envisioned it like a novel or movie, and I wrote it out. This helped me immerse myself in it and really think Was that fun? Yes, it was fun. Does it make sense? Yes, it does.” So I used that short story as an outline of what could happen. It also gave me some nice, prepared, descriptive text to read or at least use somewhat to provide atmosphere. I’ll often to that anyway, but typically I write my adventures in “scenes” so when they PCs arrive at a new location, if it is one I’ve considered, I’ll have some nice information about the atmosphere.

Overall it was a good way to do things. I don’t know if I’d do it in every adventure, but for this one it worked.

After we finished the session we had a talk, and I had considered resuming the campaign with the team back in civilized space, and not role play the journey home. But we have always resumed exactly from where we left off, and I think it is best to continue this practice. It is fun that way.

ITV Session 22: To Kill a God part 2

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In orbit of the intelligent fungal planet, SAFCO completes a week of maintenance on the ship. During that time Lucky conducts an EVA to inspect the ship for signs of fungus clinging to the hull, and finds none. Barney conducts an analysis of the fuel processed from the water on that planet and finds that the onboard refining process has removed any fungus, which was likely destroyed in the process. The fuel is fine. The rest of the ship is likewise inspected and found to be clean. It has been parked on ice and snow, so likely it did not come into contact with any fungus. The scouts with the help of Joe scan ahead to the destination system using their scout-class sensor array. They are able to detect eight planets, including two gas giants. No additional info at this distance. Art plots a course and Roger engages the jump drive and they spend a week in Jump Space.

They pop out of jump space on the edge of that system, not too far from one of the gas giants, well outside the orbital plane. More scanning is done, and they detect one inner planet in the habitable zone with water. They stop at the first gas giant to refuel. Roger is able to pilot the ship to avoid electrical storms. During the refueling run they witness gigantic gas-bag creatures floating in the upper atmosphere. A kilometer across, sensors zoom and and reveal kilometers-long tendrils hanging from the creatures, occasionaly catching a faster-moving creature of some sort. Though curious about the possible sentience of these creatures, the crew decides to press on with the main mission. Art uses his Nav-2 skill to plot a fast and efficient course to the target planet, slingshotting around the other gas giant and landing them in a perfect orbit of that world.

SAFCO confers with Zal Twist, who suggests that they scan the surface for likely unnatural formations resembling the ziggurat they found months ago on their first expedition. They eventually locate one on a small island off the coast of one of the two large continents. They survey the site from the air. It consists of a ziggurat 250 feet across, a large landing pad, and two tall black pylons, all inside a 50′ wall that surrounds the complex. Further aerial recon reveals an apparent breach in the wall of the second level and a main entrance on the ground level of the structure. Lucky uses the drone to take a look at the breach, but while it appears that a human could crawl through, he can’t risk sending the drone in.

On the ground level, the team finds an unpowered control panel next to the huge entrance, similar to the one they found on the other planet. Lucky is able to hotwire it using power from the robot, while Barney tends to the robot. As the door begins to open it draws too much power from the robot, but Barney makes his Engineering roll and prevents it from fully draining him.  They get it open about five feet – enough for everyone to pass.

They send in the drone to survey the inside. The first level appears to be a large ceremonial space. 35 feet to the ceiling, a large pit, columns, and an alter in front of a massive black square stone column the rises to the ceiling. Zal discovers alien writing on the face of that structure. Standing on the alter, he uses the universal translator to read the words…

Here, as the enemy approaches
We create our new body
The New Body
Immortal
Perfect
Powerful and Good
We dedicate ourselves to the New Body
And preservation of our Culture

As Zal speaks those words, a door slides open in that structure, revealing what appears to be an elevator.  Rather than jump in, they decide to send the drone up a stairwell they discovered to explore the next level.

As Lucky pilots the drone on the second level, it is hit by something. He backs it up and turns on the flood lights, to see a group of spider-like creatures the size of large dogs approaching the drone. They are shooting hard darts from their mouths, which trail a fibrous rope. The darts clang off the drone, but they follow it anyway. The team prepares as Lucky informs them of the threat and uses the drone to lure the creatures down the stairs. They manage to pick off the creatures before anyone is hit.  Several team members then go upstairs to explore. They find nothing but empty rooms and a spider lair.

The team decides to use the elevator, as Zal is sure they are about to make a huge discovery! They go up to the only stop – the third floor.

As the door opens, lights come on. Around this level they see two rows of 8 large organic-looking pods full of blue gel. Inside they can see the floating remains of what must have been the Precursors. Each pod has a control panel behind it, and here are huge machines along one side of the room. Across the room is what appears to be an “android” of the Precursor species, still in working order. Black metal surface that resembles that of the universal translator, the being comes to life. Zal uses the translator to communicate the team’s peaceful intentions. The android is confused. It moves about the chamber, looking at each pod, asking “Where are the Makers? How long has it been?” The team explains the situation. The android explains that the Precursors were at war, and losing, and this place was a facility to transform the consciousness of these 16 beings into pure energy, to live forever and evolve their species beyond the threat of warfare. The android asks Zal to give it the UT, as it will allow it to communicate with the whole team.

Zal hands the device to the android. The creature’s head splits open, it places the UT globe in its skull, and the head closes up. Moments later the creature suddenly grabs Zal by the throat, lifing him and squeezing. The team sees the old man’s body go limp and the android drops it to the floor, and speaks. “Thank you for this new body. I have waited months for this. Now I will take your ship. ” The team and the android begin to fight as it tries to move to the elevator. The first round of bullets bounce off the creature as they might off of battledress.  At close range, Flint strikes with his sword doing heavy damage. The creature strikes back, but his combat armor saves him. The team continues firing, and eventually puts the thing down, as Flint cleaves the head in two, destroying the UT, which apparently had housed the mind of the Dead God from session 5, who was apparently a criminal from the Precursor society.

The Baroness runs weeping to the body of Zal Twist, then exclaims that he is still alive. The team discovers that the old scientist is clinging to life, but barely. They rush him back to the ship’s autodoc, where they stabilize him..

We end the session with SAFCO considering their next actions.

End Session
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Elapsed game time: 343

Into the Void Ref’s Notes Session 21

Full disclosure. I think I missed doing these for session 20.  Also, this is about more than the session. This is the referee just thinking.

As the days get shorter about this time each year, I always look forward to spending more time on reading and gaming.  Summer, for me, means long days and evening skateboarding sessions. I still work on my gaming and try to run a monthly game, but I only have so much time or energy.

Online sessions have been a real benefit during the pandemic, and of course we’ve been able to to bring in a friend who lives out of state. One part of online session prep that has always been a pain for me is drawing maps. I’ve enjoyed using the many pre-fab maps available on Drivethru RPG, but drawing my own has been a real pain. However, last month I bought a Wacom drawing tablet, and it is making a huge difference. There is a big learning curve to using such and input device, but I’m getting better with it, and it is easier to use than a mouse. It works well with my Macbook, and talks to my Chromebook without any drivers needing to be installed. So I’m enjoying it quite a bit. I found a simple drawing app for the Chromebook, Ibis Paint X, which does what I need it to do. I can set up my maps to scale correctly for Roll20. It’s particularly nice to have the tablet and my chromebook in my backpack during the day. I can work on things while I eat lunch at work.

Our last Traveller session had to be postponed due to technical problems. Turns out my podcast partner’s firewall had suddenly decided it did not like any of the system we use for audio (Roll20 or Discord). We discovered the problem about an hour after cancelling, when simply hotspotting via his cellphone worked like a charm. Lesson learned.

So we’re playing that session next weekend. I’ll get everyone to check their systems the day before to avoid problems. I’m really looking forward to this game. I’m going to go all-out and try to make it a multi-session awesome game.

The group is currently exploring the unknown, which is fun, but I’m kind of looking forward to getting them back to either their own civilization or some other, as it is easier sometimes to created interesting conflict since we have some recurring NPCs. I also need to remember the idea of having three “groups” involved in the sessions – the PCs and a couple of NPC groups or competing interests.  Makes things more interesting.

After that I want to spend a little time back in our sadly under-played GURPS cyberpunk campaign. The idea, however, is to do that one in person, so it may be a while yet. We are not young people, and there are various issues in some of the households which make us wish to avoid the virus, even though we are all vaccinated.

Ultimately, what I’d really like to do is run GURPS Cyberpunk in-person, Traveller online, and I’d like a second Traveller group running online as well. I have one dear friend who lives across the country who is the best game master I’ve ever known, and I really want him involved in a campaign. I miss having him in games.

Omer Golan-Joel has released his new Cepheus Engine variant (speaking of variants), called Cepheus Deluxe. It is essentially an expanded and improved version of his previous Cepheus Light book, which is extremely good (I have it). I’ve ordered the new book in hard copy, and I have it in PDF format already.  As much as I love Classic Traveller, I have to admit I am very tempted to convert our campaign to Cepheus Deluxe. It is that good. There’s so much that Omer’s CE rules do well. One thing I really like about them is that not only are the rules really good, but they are well-organized and the page layout is simple and easy to navigate. The artwork is secondary. These are really perfect Traveller-inspired rules for doing homebrew settings.

I guess this weekend, in addition to preparing for next week’s game, I want to spend some time on my group’s gear, and really get a little better definition of what some of their stuff can do. Combat armor for instance. One of the guys has it. Well, I’ve kind of winged it so far, but I think I want to find some proper armor in the Mongoose Central Supply Catalog and adapt it to my Classic Traveller game. There are a few things like that I need to do. I think I want to also work on a Google Drive central repository for my group to use for their characters and whatnot. I have one already, but I want to really get it working well for them.

My only real comments about Session 21 are as follows. We had a lot of fun. Super fun game. BUT – I blew it. I created what could have been a really great planet and encounter, something that should have been the primary location and focus of a series of sessions, and I used it as essentially a very dangerous fuel stop. Lesson learned. Don’t use your best ideas on things that are not primary missions.

ITV Session 21: Ice Planet Horror

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Starting from where we left off in Session 20, part of the team is about the wrecked freighter, on an ice planet in the Void. The rest of the team is outside, keeping an eye on the ice apes they found hibernating in a ruined cargo pod of the freighter.

Being from the Merchants, Art is familiar with this very common class of freighter. He leads Flint, Barney, and Roger up one level to the bridge.  Flint is able to use his high strength force open the hatch. The ship is dead except for a very weak distress signal. The team is able to locate the memory modules containing the captains log, navigation records, and other ships info. Barney removes them. They return to the Rambler II along with the rest of the team and manage to power up the very rugged “black box” containing the captains log.  For this they learn that the ship has been there for 25 years, that it got there via misjump that resulting in a staggering distance covered. The find out the ship was carrying modular building material bound for the frontier area. This would have been when the team was all just kids (except of course for Zal). They find out the crew apparently build a survival camp in the huge nearby cave using some of their cargo, after firing off a weak distress call.

Feeling a responsibility to find out what happened to the crew and perhaps even find survivors, SAFCO gears up and the entire team except Lucky and Fardt go exploring.

The cave is massive. The entrance is nearly 200 feet across, and the interior is likewise huge. Their cold-suits have helmets with lamps. Flint’s armor has IR capability. As they enter, they find that the terrain steps down a bit. Looking ahead in IR, Flint can see one of the three branches is warmer. They explore and discover a large hot springs and the survival camp. The team searches the camp. They have thus far found no remains of the crew. They find the captain’s portable recorder (he mentioned it in the last ships log entry, in which he thanked the ship for getting them to the ground alive and says they are abandoning the vessel). In just a few entries, the captain describes their hope in discovering so much wildlife, their despair upon discovering that the biosphere is inedible, and his relief that his steward discoverers a common, highly nutritious, edible fungus. They will not starve. As the weeks go by the crew begins to go mad, one by one running deep into the cave or even out into the savage storms that come out of nowhere. The log entries end.

Assuming that the crew all met their demise by losing their minds, SAFCO and friends being to return the their ship. Zal and the Baroness are surprised attacked by three humanoid creatures after lagging behind. Zal takes a hit and is knocked out. The team engages the creatures with autopistols, but at medium range their pistols are not so great.  They close the distance, while Flint actually backs up and uses his sniper rifle to attack the creatures from a distance. A fairly long battle ensues.

At close range it is clear that these three creatures are members of the freighter crew. Their skin is mottled and permeated with weird looking fibers. They appear to be mindless and aggressive.  Roger takes a hit, but over the course of the fight the rest of SAFCO is not hit. The Baroness drags Zal out of the combat zone.

SAFCO hits many times with auto pistols, shotguns, and the sniper rifle. The creatures are extremely hard to kill, but eventually two of them go down, chunks of human flesh permeated by fungal tendrils blasted all over the place. As Roger is about to deliver the killing shot to the third, suddenly the creatures eyes brighten with the light of intelligence and sentience. It stops fighting. Roger has the universal translator. He attempts to communicate with the wounded once-human thing.

Roger hears a voice in his head. “Before I was All. But when the men came I knew there were others. I am not All. I must expand…”

Roger doesn’t like what he hears, so he and the rest of SAFCO empty their guns into the shambling thing like the Sopranos killing a “rat”. As they stand their looking at the thing, Roger still hears the voice!

SAFCO decides it will be a good idea to get the hell off this planet. They refuel from the hot spring and get back into space as quickly as possible, where they begin pre-jump maintenance. They put Zal and Roger in the autodoc to check for  fungal infections, but find none. Then the rest of the crew does the same thing. They theorize that there is an intelligent and psionic fungal colony on the planet, and that eating the fungus allows it to begin taking control of the minds and bodies of other creatures.

End Session
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Elapsed game time: 242

Game ideas, a short hiatus, etc

I put our Traveller campaign on hiatus until June. Just a short two month hold. I’m just so tired of being at my computer, in my home office, all the time these days I need a break. The idea of spending 3 or 4 hours pretty much “working” for fun at GM was making me sort of anxious. I love being the game master (or Referee in Traveller), but let’s face it. GMing is intense. It is performance. You have to really be “on”, and to do a good job you have to not only be prepared with your game materials, but you have to be physically and emotionally geared up as well. The last 14 months have taken their toll. I just need a short break. I’m glad my gaming group is all so cool and understanding. It helps that we’ve known each other since we were kids.

Image credit: ESA/Garrelt Mellema (Leiden University, the Netherlands) – Hubble Image

This break, however, is giving me a good chance to write new material for our campaign. I’m trying to spend 30 minutes to an hour a day working on stuff. I find that for each session I come up with an idea, and then over the course of development it changes tremendously. The team is currently on an ice planet, exploring a wrecked freighter, waaaaaay out in unexplored space. How did it get there? What happened to the crew? How long has it been there? So many questions to be answered. I watched a really interesting documentary last week. After we play the session I’ll discuss the documentary here and how it has influenced the session, but tonight I came up with what I think will be a very fun, super weird trajectory for this next session to take, all based on stuff from this documentary. Had nothing to do with space.  I’m enjoying coming up with the rest of this stuff.

A challenge for me, now, is to make sure the session has things for each PC to really be engaged in during the session. It can’t all be about “my great idea.” That idea is to provide the challenges for the players, so I need to make sure each PC has a chance to shine. Since players are unpredictable, I need to make sure I have two or three chances for each PC to do his thing and have his time of greatness!

Tomorrow, officially, is Mayday!, a special day in the life of Traveller players. This year Jeff (my podcasting partner on SAFCOcast) and I are playing in an online game as part of the online Traveller celebration organized by Virtual Traveller, Cyborg Prime, and Two Brothers Gaming. Beside the games, there are online talks and interviews all day. Looking forward to all of it!

Speaking of SAFCOcast, yes, Jeff and I will be creating a new episode after this game. We’ll be reporting on the online Mayday activities, and of course will have some internet finds and other Traveller talk. With the pause in our campaign, and each of us starting new jobs, we’ve been a bit preoccupied with “life” recently, but rest assured the podcast shall go on. We both love doing it.

I’ve been fantasizing about running two groups in our campaign. Christopher Rice, GURPS-master and Lord of Ravens N’ Pennies, does that. There are other people I really want to have in the game. My old college roommate for one. He’s the best GM ever, and he needs to be in our game. Since we went virtual it’s totally possible now. And there are a couple more players I’d like to involve. The problem is once a group gets over three or four players I don’t feel like I can give each PC the attention they deserve. I really like to shine the spotlight on each player, during each game, and once I pass four players in a session it gets tough. Right now we have 5 players in the came, and one occasional player. That’s about as many as I can handle. So running teams A and B would be really fun. The reality is that it will be tough to do that until I’m retired. I just can’t put enough time into gaming right now to make this happen. But…I might try anyway. Having teams A and B would open up some really fascinating possibilities to see how each’s actions might affect the other. Would they ever meet? Would they be allies? I need to do this.

Finally, I bought more 99 cent one-page adventures by Michael Brown. I love his work. So, so good.

 

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