I’m sorry to say that this blog post has more questions than answers because I’m trying something new. It’s my semi-solo Traveller campaign. I’ve been reading “Solo” by Zozer Games, but I’m not yet convinced. There, Paul Elliot uses “the Plan” as the mechanism: the player considers the adventure situation, formulates a plan, writes it down, and makes two rolls, one depending on the estimated chances of success, the other depending on the estimated risk.
Right now, that’s a bit too abstract for me. So I’m using the regular Traveller rules. I roll for surprise, for encounter distance, I roll for all the things, trying to learn the system as I go. It’s slow but I don’t mind. Occasionally I’ll ask my wife for a roll. She’s sitting next to me, reading a book, and humours me. Or I’ll ask her about her character’s opinion. It works for me. 😁
What remains unsolved in either system is the generating of adventures. Having adventure ideas, and imagining their outcomes, to then resolve either using abstract rolls or the complete system, remains a problem. I guess I’m just good at imagining a calm afternoon at the spaceport, where nothing happens.
Perhaps this resolves itself over time as the people and ships reappear. And I need to roll for reactions more often, clearly. And I need to imagine more adventurous ideas, more drama, more action.
Perhaps using the Burning Wheel technique of writing down three beliefs would help drive the story?
Like, for my Louis character:
- I believe I’m the better pilot than Lux and I will prove it to her.
- I believe that hunting animals for sports is terrible and I will free all the animals kept on the Tiktok (whose hunter we just supported)
- I believe that we really need to make a lot of money and will take any job, even if illegal
Then, for my wife’s Lux character I’ll write up three other beliefs. And then we go to town, less interested in the “simulation” of this backwater class E starport but as two characters driving the plot forward with their beliefs.
Hm. This Burning Wheel mindset is growing on me. It’s that two player game I’m listening to as a podcast. It’s influencing me. I get the feeling that if a player writes down beliefs, it presupposes some form of negotiation at the table. What’s the game going to be about? It is framed in terms of things the characters believe in, but it’s no different that agreeing on a set of scenes when starting to play Western City, for example. What’s the game going to be about. And then, during the session, we’re all interested in pushing the story towards these beliefs. Again, it’s framed as fighting for or challenging beliefs, but it could also be thought of as everybody trying to stay on topic. We don’t need the exact words to have similar effects.
So, for this Traveller game, where the two scouts, Lux and Louis are stranded on a backwater planet with a starport in a jungle, with dense and tainted atmosphere, I’m thinking… OK, so here are my thoughts as a referee, based on what’s been happening on the planet, in another campaign, and what the current situation might be.
A lost generation that grew up in a mine that broke down, now resettled to this backwater planet. What would the effect be? I’d say, rampant xenophobia. So that’s one “front” that’s building, if we’re talking tools imported from other systems. I’d say: tensions are rising. The lost generation is lacking skills and thus cannot be put to work immediately. Education is costly and nobody wants to do it. So the original settlers are blaming the immigrants for their lack of education and the new settlers are uprooted and angry. Soon, there will be fighting in the streets.
Simerik Firik is a cult leader among the new settlers. He’ll ride the violent storm, for sure.
Gehen Aam is the regular strong arm guy, fitness, self defence, security, that’s his business. It’s small, it’s local, but he’s a rallying point for the unhappy old settlers, that is: poor farmers.
Bron Banta represents business interests. He’s interested in peace and programming, “not interested in politics,” meaning he’s interested in things staying as they are, but quiet.
I also have some names, family heads that control various business branches. The settlement is so small that none of them have competition. Their only problem is getting space on ships to export their goods. Hm. Visius controls the spice, Schneid controls liquor production, Viktoriana controls the laquer, Limbus controls the wood.
So how to make money? Banta might be interested in a security operation against Firik’s cult, and Aam’s angry mob. Visius and Limbus might be having problems in one of their outposts. In fact, if this is another “front”, then we should perhaps write it up as follows: two wood and spice transports have been disappearing and the clans are angry. Who is sabotaging their work? Nobody is making any demands. Therefore, this isn’t somebody who’s out to change business practice, it’s somebody who’s trying to drive them out of business. Already they are stepping up their security. Soon, there will be firefights, and eventually these people will leave the system, resulting in this backwater system to drop off the radar entirely.
Vibes of the Mandalorian, season 2, and of the storming of the capitol on January 6, 2021.