2010-02-11 Just in Time and Space Dungeon

For my Traveller game I have been using just-in-time dungeons: I invent atmosphere and details on the fly and skip right to the one or two encounters in the base, ruin, ship, city, or space station. It seems to work, but I still don’t feel too comfortable. Something’s wrong.

Is this a game about exploration? Science fiction stories are often about the what-if – but that alone a good adventure does not make.

I’d love to see some submissions for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 using Traveller or a similar science fiction background. I find it hard to write science fiction adventures. I have plenty of role models, examples, and discussion of fantasy adventures. It would be great to see some 1PDC submissions to teach newcomers how to design a very simple science fiction adventure for a session or three.

Tags: 1PDC


I’ll show you sometime next time when I’m around and not killed by work and jetlag.

– Harald Wagener 2010-02-11 07:06 UTC

I think a lot of people share this feeling. I’ve tried to convince my players to try Traveller, and some of them are resistant, with the most common sentiment being “but what would I do?”

mthomas768 2010-02-11 13:22 UTC

And what is your reply, Mark? Right now the party seems to be heading into Mutant Chronicles territory. They have shown interest in aliens, been shooting yetis on an ice world, grew an interest in Giger-like dead aliens, found an abandoned space station and faced four undead soldiers...

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-12 01:06 UTC

This is a very common problem with Traveller. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing what types of adventures your players like and structuring the game in that direction. A lot of people who don’t play Traveller regularly (or haven’t been playing for years) get caught up in the Imperium setting and the underpinned merchant trader campaign arc and don’t see the appeal. For my part, I’ve not used either since the 1980’s. The game is an incredibly flexible (and simple) ruleset that will allow you to go in a thousand different directions.

I entered the one page dungeon contest last year and it didn’t even occur to me to do a Traveller adventure. I might have to take that up this time around.

Tim 2010-02-21 19:18 UTC

Please do and help save my Traveller campaign! :)

I think part of the problem is that none of us has ever played Traveller before so we were approaching the game like an experiment, waiting to see what kind of gameplay the rules afforded. I think the time has come to tighten up the campaign.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-21 23:44 UTC

I was wondering how to appeal to players with that game. Isn’t it funny that I don’t have a problem using dungeons in fantasy games all the time but fear that using stranded spaceships or space stations is straining it?

Crescent 2010-02-25 03:17 UTC

I’ve used an abandoned station and an abandoned ship in my campaign now, but unlike a dungeon with a defined map to explore I’ve used two or three encounters. “You make your way through the abandoned station at zero G and near zero Kelvin. As you turn around a corner of the corridor you see...” I guess I think of it as a scene in Alien (1979). There, the public also never learns the layout of the place. All that matters are the chains, the water, the cat, and roll for initiative!

Yet, players have asked a few times about a map and all I’ve given them were sketches of the current encounter and vague shapes to illustrate what the scanners are showing.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-25 05:26 UTC

See also this series on the 8:05 p.m. blog:

  1. 5 Traveller Rules
  2. Traveller Rule 1: Adventure – think Han Solo!
  3. ...

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