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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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  #11  
Old November 27th, 2017, 11:45 PM
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For games (like Traveller) that can go off the rails *very* quickly, I tend to organize resources instead of arranging them, if that makes sense.

If I've laid the plans and clues toward an office building, then I'll have at least a basic map for said building. Maybe a few common ship's plans, some NPCs both specific and generic, rumors appropriate to the area, etc. It's all on hand...

...then the PCs go left instead of right, get a wild hair, and decide to shake down some small business completely off the path.

Well, I still have a collection of generic NPCs, and a map of an office building. It is not their original purpose, and they won't carry the same names, lock the same doors, or have the same motivations, but the players get a map and some people to talk to and/or shoot at.

And I still have the original location, people, and maguffins waiting if they decide, some sessions later, that those clues are finally interesting enough to pursue. Layer this enough times for enough different *anticipated* places and situations, and you have what you need on the table for nearly anything the players decide to do.

So what if your grungy crew of cargo slingers decide to start something completely against type? Odds are you can still trap them in that same office building while the zombie apocalypse happens outside, rescue those generic NPCs from the explosion at the port, or explore the wrecked ship out on Pad 666...

---

The same line of thought applies to published adventures. While I *might* run the CT adventure "Divine Intervention" as written (for example), I'm somewhat more likely to use the map, the politics, and the named NPCs in the routine race to keep up with crazy PCs.
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  #12  
Old November 28th, 2017, 03:40 PM
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The last few sessions of Traveller I ran were off the cuff. Granted they were one shots and I let the players make their characters. So I made up something based on their characters on the spot. NPCs get a +2 to their roll if they are supposed to be competent at it, +0 if it makes sense they'd have exposure to it, and -3 for everything else. Major NPCs can take 16 damage before they go down and nameless NPCs get 8-10.

I mean, seriously, I GM a D&D 5e game for my 12 year old nieces and nephew and even for them, I have to make it up on the spot because even they do stuff I didn't see coming. No matter how much I prep, it frequently goes out the window fast.

So yea, I've given up on major prep. I'll make a few notes, mark the location of some stats I want to use, maybe even make a prop for the start of the adventure, but I don't spend more than a half hour. Mind you, I'll spend hours upon hours reading a supplement. This way I'll have it in my head when I send the players there. But the reading isn't prep. It is for my own personal enjoyment.
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Old November 28th, 2017, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GypsyComet View Post
... explore the wrecked ship out on Pad 666...
I WANT to see that scenario (as long as it isn't the Event Horizon).
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Old November 28th, 2017, 04:22 PM
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So the Alexandrian's posts are really very helpful to me. The advice I get from him and Robin Laws are:

(1) Find out what your players want out of a game -- what their "kick" is -- and make sure you tailor the game for them.

That's from the old booklet by Robin Laws. Stan Shinn has taken this to the next level, suggesting an agenda or contract list of sorts be agreed upon by the referee and players as to what they want to get out of a game/session.

(2) Write up scenarios, not plots.

That means you work out the details of a particular location or situation, but don't do the throw-away work of linking them into a plot line. Let the players draw the plot as they like.

(3) For any conclusion you want/need the PCs to make, include at least three clues... and for any given problem, make sure there’s at least one solution and remain completely open to any solutions the players might come up with on their own.
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Old November 28th, 2017, 05:50 PM
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I would say preparation is highly desirable, but it has to be the right preparation.

Others have covered the 'players givens and druthers' so that's probably number one.

Along the scenarios not plots approach, deep preparation of the planetary/system sandbox is time well spent if it results in your understanding how the place works, what sort of people are there doing what and why, and unique aspects of the culture and/or environment that stands out and makes it memorable.

The more it's a real place to you, the better you can convey it to your players.
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Old February 18th, 2018, 08:52 PM
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"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." Dwight D. Eisenhower

When I prepare a game I dream a bit. What's going on? Who is doing what? What huge bad thing is about to happen? (There's always a bad thing about to happen). Where will the characters start? What does that place look and feel like?

In the first episode of the game here both characters started at the Downport. The noble was met by a noble who was in a mercenary regiment and the ex-slave had a chat with a recruiter. There's a big bad thing happening but it is so far behind the scenes that they weren't involved at all. At first. Then there was that ortillary thing...

Much of the worlds and many of the NPCs have sprung up due to the PC actions, questions, and intended direction. I'm having a blast; half the time it seems like i'm playing more than DM'ing.

What I really like about PbP is the ability to craft the scene. It may take me a minute or a day but I really like to present a rich experience to the player.
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Old February 18th, 2018, 09:51 PM
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I'm not sure why, but I never needed any preparation for Traveller. Local conditions (gravity, atmosphere, government) were already setup. Deckplans were in the books, weapons' tables were in the basic book or mercenary, and unless you were a high guard junky, space combat was pretty basic (no explosion rules for dead ships though).

For something like D&D, T&T, Champions/HERO, SFB, or even one of the old microgames, it was a slightly different story. For environment specific areas with a lot of quirks ... say arctic or subarctic, or a vaccum world or some such, occasionally a player would remind whoever was running the game that extreme low temperatures, or a lack of air, or high pressures or no pressure would do something or have some effect on something.

Whether it's pre-industrial societies (Rennaisance and prior) or post 20th / 21st century interplanetary or interstellar settings, the research and preparation were essentially done by virtue of the fact that gamers were (are) typically knowledgeable about the game environment.
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Old February 24th, 2018, 01:41 PM
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I don't see a reason to run Traveller differently from any other game. And in the local RPG circles, I'm sorta-famous, or maybe sorta-notorious, for my "15 minutes of preparation, unless I want to do more" rule.
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Old February 24th, 2018, 11:11 PM
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Quote:
"15 minutes of preparation ...."
I've often found that everything I do in a game or setting is closely based on that first 15 minutes of thought.
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Old April 30th, 2018, 09:30 AM
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Not very, and I write down even less.

Maybe one sentence describing the scenario, a couple of important npc's (but no stats), a couple of settings, and mood.

For example:
Seismic activity damages old fission reactor for colony on airless world

Colony governor: overwhelmed political appointee
Security chief: shady ex-military looking out for himself

Reactor control room
Starport

Tense
Clock ticking
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