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Creation Date: June 20th, 2012 05:35 AM
OjnoTheRed OjnoTheRed is offline
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I thought I would start using this to share my major ideas about Traveller, post about gaming experiences, and provide links to web pages I like. I have two daughters, Harriet (12) and Charlotte (10) who I game with, along with 2 friends: Duncan who is my age and Mark who is their age. Other players their age may be added as well. I am finding it hard to access my copy of the T5 core rules because I can't get it out of Harriet's hands at the moment who is [i]fascinated[/i] with it.
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In Moot Member Blogs The Traveller Adventure continues (at last!) Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #12 New January 4th, 2015 08:01 AM
This session I instituted a few things to help. I printed off the Range/Size page from the rules to help the players understand this key concept. I also printed off an Imperial Calendar, and got the players to mark off time as it passed. The players continue to run the Ships Accounts. All of these things remove administrative burdens and get the players more involved in key mechanics of the game.

The session started with our players entering the Pysadi system. It is the first world in The Traveller Adventure with a world map provided, and apart from an atmospheric taint, is a very Earth-like planet.

The basic premise of this adventure was a rumour from a fellow trader about a high price for "howood", but on investigation local stocks have been cleared out by a visiting Tukera trader. The adventurers are encouraged to go and mine it themselves (trees are brought down by explosive as they are more like rocks than wood). Plenty of opportunity for Beast encounters in the wild, and travel across the planetary landscape at TL4 technology - steam train and horse and cart.

The session broadly split into three Acts, with one to come. In Act 1, they get to know the local starport and background on the planet and its religious government, the key encounters are in Smitty's Bar with fellow Vargr Traders.

In Act 2 they set out for the local business district, explore and make arrangements for an expedition and understand the key agencies of government and what is required for their expedition. They also obtain key contacts in a local town with the best Howood production.

In Act 3 they conduct their expedition with plenty of Beast encounters in the wilderness (way beyond "smartphone" range or radio range). They encounter the Anolas (detailed on p. 588 of the T5 Core Rulebook), who provide a great warning system for a local Carnivore. The Anolas get attached to them, and when they make their way back to a local farm, they find the local farmer is suddenly hostile.

Act 1
I find researching the basic procedures before play helps: is the planet inside the primary's jump-shadow? How long does it take to get in? What's the starport like? Get some basic descriptions going to introduce play, but quickly. In this case, Pysadi is inside the 100D limit of the primary. I am handwaving most details about the world, as the story obviously requires a very Earth-like world apart from the tainted atmosphere.

The two Vargr crew and Tukera crew are in the only bar on the planet, and the players get talking to the Vargr crew, trying out Personals. In this case, I ruled that 'carousing' successes naturally lead to the sharing of information even though not prompted by 'queries'. The players played along, buying rounds of drinks and attempt 'carousing' with the bar man as well as the Vargr crews. They discovered and confirmed the Howood opportunities, but openly considered moving on when there was 'none in the warehouse', thinking that they should chase down the Wolblutn after coming across the nuking of the shuttle last session. I had to intervene through Gvoudzon, who 'was impressed' the other Vargr crew, justifying this by vaguely hinted that Gvoudzon was deferring to the captain of another trader with higher Charisma.

I printed a copy of pages 188 and 189 of the rulebook: the table of Personal Interactions. The players are now applying the obvious strategies: get a couple of Carouse strategies going to smooth things over, be careful about which tactics are being used with a view to their later goals. This has lead to them thinking about how to role play the scene. What I have found is that the players are fleshing out the selected purpose, strategies and tactics with a little bit of role-play. In turn, this has made me think about what success or failure actually looks like in terms of reaction from NPCs, and this is better preparing me for thinking about future NPCs. Although I am still getting a feel for how this works, what I am finding is that it is providing a structure for role playing interactions.

The players are also settling in with each other with their character archetypes:
Charlotte, my younger daughter, is 11 years old. Her character is also "Charlotte" and is a naive recent medical graduate who is physically weak but brilliant at her job (C+S=16); she is also a Broker. She signed on to the March Harrier straight out of University. Her character's goal? Make a friend on each world they visit. She has been big on the personals, almost bored with her actual role on ship as a medic and broker. Rolling the dice to heal and make the money doesn't interest her!

Harriet, my older daughter, is 13 years old. Her character is from a Sophont species she rolled up herself. I am absolutely sure that she engineered it to give herself high physical stats, but I supervised her career progression and it worked out in interesting ways as an "Agent". The species are Dovan and native to Menorb; it is a high population, poor world. The Dovan roll 1D for Social Standing; we reasoned that they are discriminated against but Harriet's character found work as an 'agent' undercover somehow, and was granted a knighthood. We reasoned that her character betrayed fellow Dovans somehow, but she is constantly feeling defensive due to the discrimination suffered at human hands all her life.

Duncan, my friend who's about my age, is playing an ex-Spacer with a minor talent for Astrogation and is a cynical alcoholic. He plays up his Streetwise skill (even though it's only Streetwise-1). His character and Harriet's get on really well, and both are resentful of the naive Broker/Doctor. Don't worry, everyone understands its all in fun.

But all players are starting to pick Personals strategies and fit in how their characters would use this and briefly role playing it. Rather pleasing!

Act 2
Once the players set off for the business district, they have a good idea of how strict the government is, and start meeting law enforcement officials - first at the extraterritoriality line and then in government buildings. I keep the consistent descriptions up of clothing and places to the point where - out of the blue - Duncan comments "so these people are kind of like Amish but allow some machines and technology." YES, exactly what I was aiming for.

When they consult with government officials, I remove the requirement for 'Personals' for basic inquiry, because as that chapter points out some people are obliged to provide information (e.g. officials, information clerks, librarians etc.). But Personals could be used for more complex queries or information that causes the person to go to a bit more trouble. But the basics were satisfied.

A street scene with an old woman who told them about the 'best location for Howood' being Itzeny got them to prick their ears up. They bought a Howood decoration from her (role playing out the bartering - yes, we have all seen "Life of Brian"). They got the name of Baraatsa as a result of the conversation (although Duncan, in character, kept referring to it as that "name that sounds Italian" until I pointed out he was many many parsecs from "Italy").

I let the players look through the Equipment List, but restricted them to TL4 and Law Level 7; I ruled that they were allowed to purchase spears and knives with the Howood lumbering permits as officials would understand that weapons might be needed in self defence. This was another opportunity to role play a Salvor emphasising the respect for life on Mother Pysadi and that the weapons were to be only used in desperate need and kept locked in crates until they were in the wilderness. The party accepted this without demur. They also did some good planning - taking things from the ship such as electric torches and a medical kit, and purchasing food locally (when the detail got boring, I ruled that a lot of the food and details could be covered by their "social standing" living payment).

Then onto the train journey which was straightforward, and arrival in town. They report to the local church, get papers endorsed, get explosives required for lumbering howood and hire wagons. They meet Baraatsa's son, then they set out for Baraatsa's house who is happy to see them, have them for the night, and give them directions.

Act 3
Guided by the directions in the adventure, the players discover just how dangerous the explosives are, and how long it will take to fill the wagons they have hired - around 4 days of setting 60 charges (that's 60 chances of mishaps!). They work out who has the highest dexterity to be near the explosives (for Dex checks!) and make arrangements. As they work, I generate Beast encounters from the 2D table I have made, which has the Anolas on it. If needed, I was going to fake the Anola encounter if we got to the end of the day.

The BeastMaker chapter does not contain any information about when to roll an animal encounter. I used the Classic Traveller rule of rolling 5+ on 1D to indicate an encounter; the Traveller Adventure said check this every 3 hours.

This is where things broke down a bit. Before we got into actual combat, I realised just how deadly the creatures, as rolled up according to the rules, really were. More deadly than a PGMP-13 hit, in fact.

One example will suffice: the Anolas themselves. According to the rule book, an Anola's size is typical: 75cm or Size 4; with a volume of 2.9L and mass of 2.9kg. Their strength is listed as "Std(3D)" - corresponding to "typical" strength. This is the only "characteristic" beasts are given, and so it must be the only stat against which hits are applied. But it is also the logical characteristic to use for combat tasks when they use their natural weapons. So, their strength, according to the rules on page 581? "Size * 3D" - i.e. 3D multiplied by 4. The Str characteristic of an animal about the weight of a cat has a Str from 12 - 72, typically 40. This might not be so bad if it were just a matter of success on tasks (I can take automatic success by a Beast on brawling tasks). But given the Anola, or a creature like it, might have a natural weapon it could use, the damage from said natural weapon, according to page 260, is equal to the dice rolled for Strength. Is this 3D (i.e. literally the dice rolled), or 4*3D - i.e. roll 3 dice four times or roll three dice and multiply the result by 4? Worst case, the rules seem to suggest that a creature of 2.9kg does 12D damage with a natural weapon if it strikes in combat. Welcome to a universe where monkey teeth can penetrate Battle Dress (hey - maybe the Ewoks overcoming hardened Imperial Troops in battle armour by throwing rocks was realistic after all!). More seriously, this is completely out of synch with Sophont generation rules.

This needed quick thinking. What I did was keep the spirit of the rule on page 576 that Strength is the "relative strength of the animal" (only place that refers to Strength in relation to Beasts in the entire rulebook); so we keep the dice rolled for Strength for now, but make this typical for a Size 5 animal - i.e. human sized. Other animals must divide their dice roll by 5 and multiply by their size - i.e. get Size 4 animals get 4/5's of the strength dice, rounding to the nearest whole number. This was not satisfactory really as Size is a logarithmic scale, but I needed something on the spot that would get hit points to levels that were comparable to the players. The BeastMaker as it stands, and if I am right in assuming that Strength represents hits that can be taken, produces Beasts that are a tiny fraction of Human weight yet can take much more pounding. It is also inconsistent with the Sophont chapter that suggests that volume of a creature is relative to its physical characteristics dice, where typical humans of 72 litres correspond to 6 dice rolled for Str, Dex and End. There are some other problems with BeastMaker that I will raise in the T5 discussion forum as a result of this experiment.

Despite these problems, the players kept well in the spirit of the play. When they encountered the Anolas they took to them with delight, and the warning system they provided helped the players scare off potential dangers, especially a Pouncer who kept coming back; I could rule that the players on their feet with weapons and shining torches on the creature (thanks to the Anola warning) would scare it off; not attacking because it did not have surprise, although not fleeing but rather withdrawing. When they finally did land in combat (one intended to injure one of the players badly to create a crisis) it did work out well with the hit points I had calculated for this pouncer, and the combat held sufficient danger and tension to make it interesting, with two players taking wounds but not falling unconscious (even despite First Blood being applied). I used the rules I drafted in the T5 forum here (I modified them a bit, I will post just how on that thread).

When stalked at night by a Pouncer, the players used the Anolas early warning to try to "see" the beast. I made liberal use of Vision actions (and Hearing actions when the players suggested it), reducing the range encounter band for each failed attempt, the Pouncer creeping up on them. This built tension as I was openly rolling dice, and the players eventually realised I was reducing the range when I was reducing the dice. They remarked on it, and Charlotte even squealed when I told her they had seen a ravenous beast who POUNCED! I was delighted with the way that Vision and Hearing Actions, fully integrated with Combat range bands, could be applied in this situation (with appropriate modifiers for night, etc.) and helped build tension.

One other problem with play was the way the explosive rules were set out in The Traveller Adventure. It called for rolling for a hazard for each explosive set. But this was 15 explosions to bring down trees, plus 1D explosions per tree to break up the wood into chunks able to be handled. Around 60 dice rolls total. Plus any Dex checks for dodging early explosions, and resolving hazards. In the end, we turned it into a time simulation about how many days it took, and the players agreed that I could then use a spreadsheet to generate the dice roll results quickly and work through them. Similarly with the animal encounters.

A further problem was that I only generated Beast details sufficient to fill in Animal Encounter Table information from page 585 (although using my 2D version of it). This left me flat footed when the players asked what the beasts looked like. An obvious thing to consider. In future, I will be rolling up charts including the Beast body structure and size so I am prepared. It will probably mean 1D charts as a result more often, but there will be that special occasion when a 2D chart will be worth it, especially for a scenario in the wilderness like this one.

The players left the Howood grove happy with full carts, until they got to Baraatsa's place with the Anolas clinging to them. He warned them off, suddenly changing when he saw the Anolas (the players guessed straight away). When the players tried to persuade him they would return the Anolas if necessary, they failed the roll, and I ruled that he wanted them gone so badly that he went inside and got a shotgun (Referee fiat - he had a permit!), and sent his son off to town riding a fast Beast.

The players considered contacting the ship; but how? No wireless network, no satellite network, no phones. Getting across the concept to my daughters about what this is like is HARD! They then considered heading back to the wilderness to hide, but supplies are a problem and in the tainted atmosphere finding edible food would be hard, and none of them have Survival skill. So they decided to head to town and face the music; interestingly, none of them considered hiding the Anolas.

That's where we left it! Act 4 to follow as the story leads one of the players into captivity and a rescue is needed.
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