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What makes up a good Traveller adventure?


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Okay, let's try this one again, from a different angle:

In the experiences of those referees on the board that wouldn't mind sharing the accumulation of their knowledge, what, in your opinion, makes up a good Traveller adventure? What's different between creating adventures for fantasy games and creating adventures for Traveller? What is different about challenges? About pacing? About characterization? About character goals?

I look forward to the words of the Ancients with anticipation,
Hmm...quite a broad subject and I certainly don't have all the answers. When I've designed fantasy scenarios (mainly for Talislanta or Pendragon,) tend to think the plotline through and have some idea about how the scenario will develop. It usually has a definite ending. With Traveller, it is very easy to simply set up a situation, then let the PC's get on with it. One adventure I designed had the PC's doing some industrial espionage on a business meeting held in a hotel on an island. I started thinking 'how are they going to get there, how will they get in, how will they do the job etc.' Then I stopped and thought, 'this is their problem, not mine.' I simply laid out the island and the hotel, worked out who was where and let them get on with it. Adventures like 'Twilight's Peak' can take months of game time, with plenty of other adventures on the way. In fact, I think Traveller works best when you've got 2-3 adventures all on the go at the same time as each play session always starts with something to be getting on with. As each adventure draws to a close then the seeds for the next one will have already have been laid. The classic 'Traveller Adventure' works like this, still IMHO one of the best role-playing works written. ;)
I'll echo what Brass Jester said, and also point you in the direction of MJD's recent article on this very subject, and Marc Miller's frequently-reprinted essay (it's not in T20, but is in about a dozen other places) describing the fundamental elements of a Traveller campaign: the Basics, Push, Pull, Gimmick, and Enigma.

Other than all of that, all I can add is that the most important things for running Traveller effectively and believably are Motivations and Consequences. People (in Traveller as in life) don't do things just for the sake of doing them -- everybody has their reasons, and if you're going to present characters and situations convincingly you're going to need to establish and remember what those reasons are. Likewise, all actions have consequences and repercussions -- even spear carriers and functionaries have friends and families, and the most seemingly insignificant acts of kindness or cruelty will be remembered, and may come back to haunt or reward the characters in the future. By keeping these two factors constantly in mind you will add greater verisimilitude to your NPCs and adventures, and the play experience will come more to resemble snapshots of actual lives, much greater than simply a 'game.'
I'm not sure there is a simple element to this question. Rather it's what makes any good game - a good conistant story with properly motivated NPC.

You also need a decent group of players who will get involved in the plot.

Look at the characters. What are their stengths and weaknesses? Now attach either weak spots.
For example, get a noble character into trouble where he runs the risk of loosing social status. If you go after their weaknesses you can get them sweating without the need to ever kill anone off.

Cut way back on the random encounters. Have all the 'random' encounters worked out beforehand. The encounter maybe routine but never random.

Personally, I rarely use the random encounter anymore. (I may randomly determine whether an encounter occurs, but when it does, I have already determined what that encounter is. In some ways, it's like a Scene in the Epic approach to adventure writing.)

Judging by what I read, both on this board and in many of the published Traveller adventures, I gather that Traveller adventures are best written as situations, with some nod toward a timeline that could easily be modified by character action. It seems more freeform, and less railroaded. Interesting. No wonder they're so hard to write.

I appreciate the info that's been provided so far, and I welcome further comment from others, as I am soon to start my own T20 campaign, and want to pull myself out of the D&D mindset of adventure design, and get back to some old fashioned Traveller-style gaming.

I appreciate the help,
MJD's article got me to thinking and really helped me tighten up my campaign/adventure setting. I have a number of overarching plotlines that the PC may stumble upon or may bounce them out of their planned course if it fits the situation. Otherwise, it is acts and scenes. Act 1 scene 1 has just begun. Act 1 scene 2 will introduct life aboard ship, ship board combat and the flavor of life between the stars. A couple of plotlines and NPCs will be introduced in scene 2. PC's will meet some of them again and will have impact later in the timeline/plot.

GM: "Remember Szrill Oberst during the hijack attempt."

PC1: "Damn, I knew I should have spaced him when I had the chance."

PC2: "Now he has the gun.....I try to Bluff him, Hey Szrill, remember that actress on Charlindrea 5? I've got her comm number.....and her local access codes."

As Khan (Ahab) said, "He tasks me and I shall have him."

Recurring enemies are like obnoxious relatives, you can't seem to get rid of them and they always show up when you are on top of the world to borrow money or at the bottom to gloat.

tenntrav :D