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  #1  
Old February 12th, 2005, 10:18 PM
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My question is this, if I were to take a crack at writing a Traveller adventure (or two, or three...) what are the fictional limits? Do I stick with hard science and technology as the Traveller system defines it, or can I write an adventure where the Travellers are swept to some real heady places? Things like "magic" mentioned in another thread, or a place like a "dinosaur" planet, or an alternate reality like Ming the Merciless'es realm from the 1980's Flash Gordon movie?

What are the limits?

Thanks much for any insight or guidelines.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 02:53 AM
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Well, you *can* undoubtedly do any number of things.

However, if you want to give yourself the best odds of attracting readership, I'd keep in mind the nature of ye olde game. If most of us wanted to play Star Wars, we'd be playing a WEG product. If most of us wanted to play Space Opera, we'd be doing it. Or Star Frontiers. Or Space Master. Now, not saying some folks don't like this stuff, or even saying I don't. But Traveller to me has always been a bit harder science and a very particular feel to it. Psionics is as close as we get to magic, and it has interactions that allow you to build technical blocks to it.

I mean, you can (with the string-of-pearls type pocket-universe trick) justify just about anything. GDW used that. But you just have to accept that some portion of your readership will say 'That is not Traveller to me'. <shrug>
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Old February 13th, 2005, 03:26 AM
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Yeah, that's a good reply. Thanks once again, Kaladorn.

I remember all those years ago when our group did the classic adventures I sometimes felt hampered, or restrained, by some of the boundaries imposed by the fictional-"ethos" (for lack of a better term. I tried taking our group to really fantastic places, but made sure that they were limited by their skills and familiar tools.

Right now I've got the "Dune" mini-series running on my PC as I type this post, and I'm thinking to myself what it would be like for a Scout ship with my old gaming crew's characters to land on Harakas (sp?) and go toe to toe with House Harkonin (sp?). Not that I'd plagiarize Frank Herbert's creation, but to myself fictional settings like "Dune" or "Logan's Run" or, to push it even further, the old "Heavy-Metal" adult-cartoon create challanging settings for Travellers.*

Alternate realities, worm-holes, time-travel, and some of the usual sci-fi staples can be pretty cliche and unapetizing. Like anything else a plot device needs to be pertinant to a story otherwise it's just another plot device. But, again for myself, a dash of unreality can, in propper and modest quantities, add a great deal of spice to an otherwise conventional setting, and do so without pushing the already suspended disbelief even further.

Thinking outloud I think I can see a clearer picure now. As usual Kaladorn your wisdom helps further this Traveller's thoughts. [img]smile.gif[/img]

Much thanks.

* The Dune mini-series, for those of you who don't have it, is on sale at Tower Recrods for $9.99 American.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Blue Ghost:
Do I stick with hard science and technology as the Traveller system defines it, or can I write an adventure where the Travellers are swept to some real heady places?
Are you familiar with the Sky Raiders trilogy? This set of three adventures, written by J. Andrew Keith and published by FASA, had a flavour that can best be described as "Indiana Jones".

The Chamax Plague/Horde double adventure was a 50s style monster movie/bug hunt.

I could continue...

Basically, think of a genre. With comparatively little modification, you can probably fit it into Traveller.

_That's_ how wild you can go, without mucking about with the technology much.

Of course, if you want to use psionics a lot, you're going out on a limb, but it's possible. I remember playing one psi-heavy game where the GM had lifted the plot from a fantasy novel, simply replacing magic with psionics...

Personally, I think some freewheeling pulpish adventure stories would be good. Maybe a bit of hard-boiled detective stuff. (Some cyberpunk material approaches this - just avoid the stoopid cybernetic enhancement trap.)

On the other hand, writing mystery oriented scenarios can be tricky. You can't make it too hard for the PCs to work out what is going on, or they will sit around looking stupid and getting frustrated.

As long as you can come up with a good excuse to separate the PCs from their ship (if any), you can drop them into any book or movie you can think of.

Just pick a good one, not one that sucks.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 11:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by alanb:

On the other hand, writing mystery oriented scenarios can be tricky. You can't make it too hard for the PCs to work out what is going on, or they will sit around looking stupid and getting frustrated.
Any sort of mystery or problem solving definitely has to be appropriate to what the PCs are capable of figuring out. I've had adventures that I've participated in where the GM thought that he had presented the easiest scenario to solve, but instead ended up killing off several PCs because they couldn't figure it out. Also, sustaining mystery requires a bit of brain-power on the GMs part. Playing D&D once the DM uttered the line "You see a floor covered with illusions," which was a slip of the tongue that took a bit of the challenge out of that part.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 03:25 PM
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Yeah, I wouldn't want to fiddle with the established OTU, or any artifact thereof, but it'd be interesting to introduce an "alien" presence. And by that I don't mean living being with super technology, but bring in things that, although seemingly unconventional, would be well grounded and solicit "oohs" and "ahhs" from the players.

One of the great failures for our group was "Murder on the Arcturus Station." Our group was so used to shooting it out with the opposition that anything else was seen as "boring." Of course that was when we were much younger. I tried throwing in occasional rescue missions and simple exploration, but man... it's like those guys were blood thirsty or something. Hack-n-slash types, but with guns instead of swords. But I digress.

Occasionally I see a book cover or a piece of sci-fi art, and my immagination gets fired up. Like what would a band of adventurers do if they had to crash land on a ring-world, where the technology and beings would essentially ignore them because they were so primitive. Or what about an extra-dimensional adventure to someplace just completely out there?

I may've told this story already a couple years back, but I'll tell it again. I saw a Gama-World adventure many years back for sale with this kind of super-sized tank on the cover that looked like an ocean-liner outfitted with treads. I bought the thing thinking to import it to Traveller. I mean, how cool would it have been to tackle a land roaming fortress? Unfortunately the cover art was only a rumor in the adventure material, and never manifested itself in the game. Still, it was an interesting concept, and one that I had a fun time formulating. [img]smile.gif[/img]

However, I had to finagle with the laws of "jump physics" to put that adventure into motion, and that's the kind of plot device I'd like to avoid, largely because it monkeys with what's in the rulebook. It's OK for an in-house deal, but I get the feeling a hyperbolic mis-jump would be rejected for a submission.

Anywho, I think I got a clear picture now.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 03:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Blue Ghost:

<snip>
I saw a Gama-World adventure many years back for sale with this kind of super-sized tank on the cover that looked like an ocean-liner outfitted with treads. I bought the thing thinking to import it to Traveller. I mean, how cool would it have been to tackle a land roaming fortress?
Check out the "Bolo" series by Keith Laumer and subsequent authors, also the Steve Jackson game "Ogre".
If I remember there was an Amber Zone in one of the Journals about an experimental tree harvester that went haywire and the players had to go neutralize it. Turned out that it was an experimental war machine. There's a lot of plot potential in something like that.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 04:37 PM
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Loggerheads is the name of that Amber Zone. It was in one of the JTAS, but I don't have mine handy at work here. Tree harvester (armed?) that wasn't really, instead experimental war machine. Now, mind you, most folks I know here would laugh at the 'war machine' and its capabilities, but vs. the PCs of the time, it could present quite a challenge. Updated, an interesting idea.

Duneraiders, the Fate, Legend and Trail of the Skyraiders trilogy, and I'm sure at least one or two more adventures have been set on desert worlds.

I guess I'll just make two general observations:

1. Any good story, well presented, will stand up without too many McGuffins (techincal wizardries or violations of game mechanics)

2. The universe is big. If you can bring in a good story, you can make a good adventure. One that comes to my mind as an interesting sort of adjunct to the old "Mountain Environment" supplement would be a version of 'Where Eagles Dare'. Other neat ones might include small Merc tickets akin to 'The Dirty Dozen' or 'Uncommon Valour'. Mysteries could draw from ole 30s and 40s pulp. So, you have a wide canvas, just be sure that any inspiration is just that - it shouldn't be a regurgitation, rather a re-imagining. One is a hommage and even Shakespeare did that. The other would be outright thievery (just change the names) and wouldn't be really right. (Not suggesting that's where you were going, but it is a point that should be brought out).

3. Remember, a game is not a story. The adventures I liked *least* were the ones that started with some set-piece text that somehow forced the PCs into a situation. This usually direspects the capabilities of your particular group of PCs (who may well *NOT* have ended up in the situation due to different abilities or approaches to problems). I generally eschew in a module anything which directly says "You are here, you did this, now here's your situation" because that doesn't let the situation naturally occur. My approach to module design is nugget oriented and I put NPCs and organizations in that have their own motivations. Then, as the adventure clunks along, I have each NPC or organization working with its own limited set of facts and its own innate biases, strengths and weaknesses. This gives a flexible (to a point) response, while still remaining true to the idea. The players then serve as catalysts and if they choose unorthodox approaches, the whole module doesn't suddenly break and you don't end up with frustrated players. If they do something odd, since I have layed out the NPCs motivations and resources, it isn't too hard for the GM to imagine how the NPC would react to cope with them. It beats 'set' responses or 'programmed' encounters all to heck IMO.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 06:07 PM
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I think a game can become a story. I remember a game (it was AD&D) where everyone got involved in creating and developing the epic storyline that evolved from some chance effects of chargen. So good storytelling is an essential part of a game, just let everyone write the plot as it goes along.

The advantage of the OTU is that there are enough worlds that almost anything can exist somewhere in some shape or form. I see it that it is the Imperium that is technologically conservative, and for good reason, as it can be dramatically destabilising (Dutch tulip mania, South Sea Bubble, Dotcom bubble). So maybe there are a few worlds where a traditional cyberpunky type setting could exist. Or maybe a primitive medieval world, where magic and supernatural powers are rumoured, but maybe its just psionics or even smoke and mirrors. After all, devout Catholics see miracles as real things, a real event. Is it magic or just mumbo jumbo.

just a few thoughts.
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Old February 13th, 2005, 09:10 PM
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You said the important thing though: Let the characters write the story. You are the GM, a facilitator. When you think *you* have the story to tell and they are just there to see it unfold, you find they quickly realize that and get annoyed or lose interest. They aren't there to see your grand vision unfold thus and so - they are there to encounter your world and react to it, thus *writing* the story. Players not allowed to be the focus of the game can become unhappy players. A good GM knows this and lets the players 'play'. And a good adventure has a structure which lets this happen rather than tries to ramrod them down one path to a solution.
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