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

IY6026.177

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
IY6026.178
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.

 

ITV Session 20: Ice Planet in the Void

I didn’t write this one up right after the game, but here are Jeff’s notes. Pretty complete…

IY6026.153

Traveller Session 20 Writeup (from Jeff’s notes, probably a bit “noisy”)

Into The Void – Session #20

9 Jan 2021 (Sat)  Start 1:00PM.

Bob Loftin, GM. Players: Randy (Roger), William (Barney), David (Flint), Jeremy (Art), Jeff (Lucky)

We exit the complex, board ship.  We are at point #1 on Bob’s star map.

Our air raft is damaged.  Jeremy (+3) is the best suited (mech and air raft) to attempt repair.  Jeremy rolls, great success, air raft is fixed.

Roger (+4) pilots ship, rolls for Jump 1, success.

We are now in system #2.  There is a gas giant here.  We have enough fuel to jump to #3, if we want.  We scan – 20 planets, 1 gas giant, couple of icy worlds, no signs of signals.

Nebula – glowy gas.  We can scan one hex ahead.  Art (+2 navigator) rolls, does not detect anyhing in “empty” hex between #2 and #3.

We make it to point #3.  There is a gas giant in this system.  We scan, art rolls 6+2 = 8.  There is a star ahead with 9 planets, we can’t tell if there is a gas giant here. (target scanned = #4).

Zal – Would like to find an actual Precursor city or outpost.  Care needed, they could have sophisticated defense systems.

Roger rolls for jump – rolls 11, successful jump to #4.

ARRIVAL AT ICE PLANET:

We arrive at #4, one gas giant, 9 planets.  Barney (+3 computer) scans.  Barney finds one planet with a lot of water, scanning as we go.  Ass we get close, we find it is ice.  It is planet number 4 in this system.  80% water, frozen, 20% land.  One fairly large continent on southern hemisphere.  No moons.  We pick up a radio signal beacon – standard Imperial, very weak.

LIFE FORMS AND CRASHED CARGO SHIP:

Appears to be life on this planet.  In distance, a herd of creatures stomping through snow and ice.  Flying beings, as well.  We approach the radio signal, a distress beacon.  We see the wreckage of a large cargo ship, a crash site.  Looks like the back section just fell off.  Front is mostly under snow and ice.  Terrain is frozen.  200 foot cliff goes up to mesa above.  The ship is much, much larger than ours, maybe 300 feet long.

Two large holes in front part of ship, open to air.  The back of the ship has a large hole.

We each arm ourselves with 5 grenades.

We land.  I (Lucky) fly drone to survey the crashed ship.  Ship is three decks high, catwalk visible from hole in back.  We see cargo containers, hole at left of ship, destroyed cargo area.  Northwest hole at front of ship is the crew quarters.  No bodies seen anywhere.

ICE APES:

From hole in side of ship, we see four heat signatures.  Moving closer, we see that they are twice the size of humans, look like gorillas or apes.  Bringing drone closer, we see that they are not moving, appear to be asleep or perhaps in hibernation. They look like predators. Zal does not know anything about these life forms.

CRATES:

The crates look like they contained prefab building materials.  

PLAN:

Outside of ship – snow and ice.  No markings evident.  Our plan – Fardt will stay on our ship.  I will stay as nearby our ship as possible, will keep tabs on sleeping lifeforms with drones.  Everyone else will form a team to enter the crew area and explore through the NW hole in the crew section.

EXPLORATION:

The away team enters the crew compartment.  Art knows the general ship layout.  Crew compartment is on three levels.  The party is trying to make their way to the control bridge.  They encounter a hatch, frozen closed.  Flint, strength 10, tries to open it.

— END OF SESSION #20 —

End Session
IY6026.177
Elapsed game time: 241

SAFCOcast 24: Interview with Ken Patterson and Greg Caires about the 2021 MayDay! online Traveller event!

In this episode we interview Ken Patterson and Greg Caires about the upcoming Mayday! event.

The first day of May – May Day – has special meaning to Traveller players due to the infamous Mayday call from the Free Trader Beowulf that has appeared on box and book covers of various variants of the game since its earliest years.

In 2021, May Day will be a Saturday – an ideal time to play Traveller.

To help the global Traveller community celebrate May Day, three groups of players have teamed up to create a unique day of Traveller-related programming.

Operating from its home base on Facebook, the Virtual Traveller group – the same people who organized the weekend-long online “non-convention” last October – will organize “MayDay! a Celebration of Traveller through online roleplaying.” GMs from across the globe will be invited to run Traveller games online using whatever communications tools they prefer and during any suitable time period based on their locale. The only requests are:

  • All games must begin and be run during May 1st in the GM’s local time-zone;
  • All games must conclude by 7 pm Saturday night Central US Time on May 1st to “clear the decks” for a charity game that will be broadcast live on Twitch (more about this below).

Based on lessons-learned from the Virtual Traveller weekend, MayDay! will be organized using Tabletop Events for simplicity game submission, player registration and communication. To cover the expense of using Tabletop, a nominal fee (likely $3) will be charged. That fee buys players their convention badges, and they can then join and play as many games as their schedules will allow.

More about MayDay!:

Tabletop Events:
https://tabletop.events/conventions/mayday-celebration
Facebook Virtual Traveller Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/virtualtraveller
Discord Virtual Traveller server:
https://discord.gg/3WRUjXk

Both GMs and players are sought. Questions can be submitted via the links above.

If online gaming isn’t your thing, CyborgPrime is organizing the 3rd annual “Mayday! Mayday!” event, which consists of live interviews of Traveller authors and others who contribute to keeping the game popular and replenished with fresh material. Last year, CP interviewed both Matthew Sprange and Marc Miller, and generous prizes were awarded to members of the audience.

This year, CP intends to interview a variety of new voices, giveaway more and better prizes, give a platform to Ken Burnside of AdAstra Games to host some Traveller Squadron Strike vector combat simulations. The marquee event will be – like last year – the live broadcast of Patrick Kanouse’s Traveller game to benefit his charity The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation (https://www.carcinoid.org/).

Joining him as players are Two Brothers Gaming, High Shelf Gaming, and The Death Die Club. They will be playing Michael Brown’s Angle of Incidence: “A routine cargo run leads to a station orbiting a black hole and one man’s world of obsession, secrets, and madness. As the heroes help an intelligence agent investigate the mad scientist’s activities, they come to realize that they may bear witness to the ultimate adventure…or become just more bits of matter crushed by the black hole’s gravity.”

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation’s mission is to increase awareness and educate the general public and healthcare professionals regarding carcinoid and related neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), to support NET cancer patients and their families, and to serve as patient advocates. We’ll be giving away a bunch of things, and you can even have an effect on the game.
The game will stream on High Shelf Gaming’s Twitch channel (https://twitch.tv/highshelfgaming/profile) at 8:00 pm Eastern. The game will include giveaways and opportunities to influence the game.

SAFCOcast 23: To Violence Or To Not Violence

First, thanks to all our listeners for sticking with us! It has been two months since the last episode, which of course is not our goal, but life got in the way!

In this episode, besides the usual sections, our main topic deals with non-violent/non-combat Traveller (and other RPGs) sessions. Not arguing against a good shoot-em-up, but just using other kinds of challenges to create a good game.

We also mention Jeff’s table of 2d6 outcome probabilities, so here it is!

Relevant Links

SAFCOcast 22: Interview with Greg Caires about Virtual Traveller

In this episode we talk to Greg Caires about the October 2020 Virtual Traveller non-con that he and Ken Patterson organized. Always fun to talk to Greg!

Relevant links:

Traveller Session Prep Process

I spent the evening revisiting Classic Traveller game encounters and whatnot that I wrote 2 months ago, for a session that was put off last month, that we will play next weekend.

Reworked them so they make a bit more sense. Part of the process is to make sure there are opportunities for each of the player characters to contribute to the game using their unique skills or simply the interests of the player. I do this for every game, and SAFCO always surprises me with what they decide to do anyway. But at least I’m ready with something.

Tomorrow I’ll go back over the material, add embellishments, complications, challenges, and more possible twists and turns. Once that is all done, I look at everything I go back in one more time and add in more descriptive elements to insure a science fiction atmosphere. I also look at it to make sure nothing is going to straight-up blow up the campaign, like having the PCS acquire too much money, etc.

SAFCOcast 21: Mailbag, Rules and Internet Finds, and Session Discussion

This first light image from the Callisto telescope at the SPECULOOS Southern Observatory (SSO) shows the famous Horsehead Nebula . First light for a newly commissioned telescope is a tremendously exciting time, and usually well-known astronomical objects such as this are captured to celebrate a new telescope commencing operations. The SSO is installed at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the vast Atacama Desert, Chile, and consists of four 1-metre planet-hunting telescopes. The project’s telescopes are named after Jupiter’s Galilean moons, and are neighbours of ESO’s Very Large Telescope and VISTA . SPECULOOS will focus on detecting Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby ultra-cool stars and brown dwarfs.

In this episode we read some great email’s from listeners! Lots to think about! We also cover Internet Finds and Rules Finds, and discuss the latest session of our Into the Void Classic Traveller campaign!

Relevant links:

 

Into the Void Ref’s Notes 19

Once again we played for about 2.5 hours on Roll20, using Discord for our audio. Everything worked pretty well. We spent a little time before we started getting everyone’s audio levels set to be compatible, which was a good idea.

The session was a continuation of the last one. I was pretty happy with it. While the team did have a little ship-to-robot combat, most of this game was decision making, problem solving, and exploration. The two more combat-oriented characters were able to stay engaged, which was great.

When the team is exploring the unknown, the more “social” skills are not as useful (generally). At least when they are not in the midst of some kind of culture. If they are just on a wild planet, bribery, streetwise, etc., aren’t very useful. So I’m kind of looking forward to the team returning to known space again so I can work them into some city-based adventures, or even stuff on a big space station.